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May 2024

With the increasing amount of research, especially post-Covid, you've likely come across the finding that isolation can profoundly affect us mentally and physically.

While Next offers numerous ways to stay connected through our extensive programming, one often overlooked avenue for engagement is volunteering, which brings a host of benefits. This is particularly true for older individuals who may have retired and seek a meaningful way to contribute and stay sharp, or learn new skills.

At Next, our vibrant community thrives thanks to the dedication of our volunteers. Regardless of your schedule, interests, or expertise, we provide the support and opportunities to find the perfect fit for your passions.

We're fortunate to attract volunteers with a diverse range of skills, from helping to deliver meals to area residents or working in our front office greeting members, some volunteer just four hours a month, others four hours a week. Other opportunities can really hone in on a special skill like teaching computer lessons or a card game, facilitating a discussion group or assisting in planning big events like Birmingham’s Big Night Out. If you are thinking of volunteering, Next has no shortage of opportunities.

Beyond the social aspect and the joy of contributing, volunteering offers practical advantages. It keeps your mind active, fostering a positive outlook and staving off health related issues. It also helps combat feelings of isolation and can rediscover a sense of purpose, especially as life transitions occur.

Along with helping to prevent feelings of isolation, volunteering helps regain a sense of purpose that may have waned as children grow, we retire, or some activities we once performed with ease, become a little more challenging. Regaining that feeling of purpose through volunteering can help us feel recharged and be a motivating factor to try other new activities.

Bridging the generation gap is another reason to volunteer. Next hosts several intergenerational opportunities that gives a glimpse into the younger generation where sharing ideas can offer a better understanding of challenges and highlights facing other age groups.

Maybe you have an old hobby that has slipped to the wayside? It could be a good time to revisit it and Next might just be the place to explore and develop that hobby once again. Volunteer activities at Next can align with almost any interest, including art, gardening, cooking, business, and exercise.

For many, one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is the opportunity to forge new friendships. In a world where making connections can be challenging, volunteering brings together like-minded individuals and fosters meaningful relationships.

Recently as part of a marketing initiative, when members were asked what surprises them most about Next, many responded with comments like, “it surprises me just how friendly people are, which makes me more friendly,” and “Next is a place where I feel like I belong, whether I am delivering meals or teaching a computer lesson, I feel like I am making a difference.”

Getting involved in your community has many rewards but ultimately, volunteering not only strengthens communities but also enhances health, relationships and skills. Explore the benefits at Next – you might be pleasantly surprised!

Cris Braun is Executive Director of Birmingham Next


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