WANT TO STAY ACTIVE? Get involved with your community

Metro Newspaper Service

Though a significant percentage of individuals report desires to retire later in life, many people stop working around the age of 62. The desire for a later retirement may stem from financial concerns or because some people wonder just what they will do when they’re no longer working.

Retirement is a time for hardworking individuals to enjoy themselves and their newfound free time. Interacting with the community can keep the brain engaged and foster beneficial social connections. In recognition of the value of staying engaged, the following are a few ways for seniors to become more involved in their communities.

· Join a club or group. Identify an activity you find interesting and determine if there is a way to get involved with it in your community. Senior centers or adult activity providers may sponsor local programs.

· Participate in worship. Many older adults find they want to reconnect with their faith at this point in their lives, even if attending services hadn’t been a top priority earlier in life. Reach out to your local house of worship and find out when services take place and which activities they offer.

· Read to children. Volunteer your services at the library by reading to youngsters. Interacting with other generations can be inspiring.

· Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Times continue to be challenging for many people who may find it hard to cover their expenses. Soup kitchens and food pantries can be a saving grace for those who might otherwise miss meals. Volunteering some hours at these organizations can do worlds of good and help you make a difference.

· Befriend neighbors. A passing “hi and bye” wave may have been the norm when you were busy working a job. Now that you have free time, you can get to know neighbors better and even take turns hosting get-togethers. Moving to a retirement or active adult community with others in similar positions may facilitate such friendships.

· Volunteer with local government. Find out ways you can become involved civically. Perhaps you can run in a local school board election or try to become a member of the town council?

· Become a substitute teacher or paraprofessional. Many schools are experiencing shortages of qualified staff. You may find your place helping to shape the minds of youngsters by volunteering at schools or taking on part-time jobs in the classroom.

Seniors can be more engaged in their communities, thus strengthening their “social capital,” the term scientists often use to describe the strength of their social relationships, and the extent to which people feel physically and emotionally supported by their communities.