When weighing the options for volunteering abroad, volunteers often begin with the decision of what age group to invest their time in. In many countries, it’s not just children but also the elderly, that are left neglected or in vast need of resources to help manage their day-to-day needs. The number of elderly individuals in need has increased over the years in countries with large aging populations especially. Those who volunteer with senior citizens can look forward to spending quality time with elderly individuals and actively finding ways to improve their quality of life. Volunteering abroad with senior citizens involves a great deal of patience and the ability to inspire happiness.
Why Volunteer Abroad
There are numerous reasons volunteers should consider devoting their time to senior citizens around the world. An obvious but dismissed truth is that they do need care and attention to prolong their life and live happily. While many Western countries typically have governmental programs and financial assistance to support elderly populations, many developing nations do not. The shortage of these programs and professionals devoted to the needs of aging populations equates to a high need for volunteers. Not only will those who volunteer with senior citizens provide necessary emotional support, teach new skills, or assist with medical needs, volunteers will work to provide a healthy environment for seniors to socialize and thrive. Volunteering abroad with senior citizens is your chance to truly make a difference and give senior citizens something to look forward to, the resources or help they need, and activities to brighten their daily life.
If you choose to go to South America, Africa, or Asia, there are numerous volunteer opportunities working with elderly populations, due to high levels of poverty, war tearing through the country, or a simple deficit in resources.
In Peru, for example, senior citizens are in need of vast help to counter malnutrition and isolation from society. Individuals who volunteer with senior citizens in Peru will be focused mainly on teaching senior citizens the importance of a healthier diet and utilizing resources to enhance their health and well-being. Warm smiles and positive attitudes are a must for this type of placement, and will definitely boost the morale of elderly individuals and provide the emotional support they need.
Senior citizens in Argentina who live in shelters or homes often are simply looking for someone to cheer them up and foster a positive living environment. Those who volunteer with senior citizens in Argentina will typically help seniors carry out their day-to-day tasks, and also come up with new activities for seniors to spend high quality time together. If you enjoy playing checkers, chess, pool, or shuffleboard, you may enjoy teaching senior citizens how to play or playing these games with local seniors.
South Africa has a large senior population in massive need of healthcare due to poverty and political issues which impede them from living a healthy life. Volunteers in South Africa will often act as ambassadors of peace, assist with implementing new health practices, or spend genuine time with senior citizens providing them with care and support.
Countries in Asia, such as India, are constantly in need of volunteers to work in local centers that provide essential care and support for senior citizens. Volunteer work with senior citizens in India is usually vital to their well-being, such as medicine distribution or care for individuals suffering with disabilities, therefore the utmost dedication and patience is needed.
In addition to the countries named above, there are endless options that have just as much need. Most any country that experiences poverty or economic issues will need volunteers with an open mind to volunteer with senior citizens and make the best of the resources available.
Volunteering with Senior Citizens
It goes without saying that many of the organizations who house seniors run solely because of volunteer assistance. Many of these organizations, or homes for senior citizens, are in dire need of volunteers to help maintain the health, wellbeing, and at times medical care of residents. Some volunteer programs at elderly care centers may request that volunteers help senior citizens in showering, dressing, eating, and other basic activities that you may take for granted in your own daily life. Tasks will vary based on your skill set and how comfortable you feel with the task (i.e. providing medical treatment is not required if you are not qualified). Your time is valuable and will make a tremendous difference in the lives of program coordinators, home managers, and of course in the lives of the senior citizens you work with.
In very rural areas of developing countries, it is also common for senior citizens to need help maintaining their daily needs, such as bathing, eating, and cleaning. Many placements volunteering with senior citizens, will also give volunteers the chance to tap into their creative side, by coming up with activities that allow senior citizens to get crafty, creative, and remain active.
Basic knowledge of the language is not required in most senior citizen volunteer programs, but it will go a long way in working with locals and building meaningful relationships. The majority of programs and organizations that advocate for and provide volunteering opportunities with senior citizens have one thing in common: they are open to participants worldwide, as long as volunteers have a big heart.
Professional & Educational Development. Setting time aside to volunteer abroad with senior citizens will not only be fulfilling, it will also enhance your education and work experience. When applying for jobs in the medical, nursing, counseling, or the special education fields, volunteer experience with seniors will be something recruiters or potential employers will notice. If beginning a career in medicine or in special education, getting the hang of things can be challenging and tough, but volunteering abroad with seniors can be good preparation for careers in the latter fields.
Cross-Cultural Experience. Volunteering with senior citizens will not only teach you discipline, it will also teach you how to interact with people outside of your comfort zone. It will also provide you with a unique chance to practice your language skills or develop knowledge of a new language. While working with elderly individuals you will even be able to learn specific idioms and customs, and you will get a personal and tailored experience unlike any out there.
If you choose to volunteer abroad with seniors, rest assured that you will gain the pulse, rhythm, and the heartbeat of that country from the wisest population. This experience will personally enrich you just as much as exploring and crossing off bucket list destinations would. Consider volunteering abroad with senior citizens and get ready to crack a smile and spread hope!