Edna looked forward to each Wednesday with a special sense of excitement—it’s when she volunteered with 5th grade students in Sausalito. Over the past year, she’d formed a strong bond with not only the children, but their teacher as well: her lifetime of experience and knowledge was deeply valued inside the classroom, while seeing students grow motivated her to return time and again. After several years of retirement, these weekly volunteer sessions helped Edna connect more deeply to her community and form new, long-term relationships.
Volunteering on a regular basis can offer a much-needed antidote to the isolation many older adults struggle with as they get older. For example, the passing of a spouse or close friend can often create a need for new connections in older adults’ lives. Meanwhile, if your aging loved one has reduced mobility due to old age, it may be difficult for them to get in enough social time with friends and family.
Fortunately, many regions within the Bay Area offer inspiring volunteer opportunities for older adults. In Marin County, for instance, there are many ways for your aging loved one to give back to their local community. From managing the book cart at Marin General hospital to tutoring students at San Rafael’s Davidson Middle School or answering phones at the Alzheimer’s Hotline, exploring volunteer positions in Marin can be a fun activity for you and your loved one to do together.
Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults in Marin County
With such a wide range of choices in Marin, be sure to spend some time researching all the options available—and don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately find a perfect match. Choosing a position that’s well-suited to your loved one’s personality, as well as their mobility level, will help them get the most from the experience.
Working with the Alzheimer’s Association can offer older adults the chance to support their peers who are struggling with the effects of this difficult disease. If your loved one has had a family member suffer from dementia, volunteering at an organization like this can be especially powerful. Lending a compassionate ear can be a way for your loved one to use their own experience to help others.
This position involves providing emotional support over the telephone to people calling the Alzheimer’s Hotline. Your loved one would be responsible for offering the caller reassurance, information, and gentle guidance on how to move forward while navigating a diagnosis of dementia. Callers might include caregivers or family members looking for support, as well as dementia sufferers.
All Hotline volunteers go through 4 to 5 training sessions, 2 hours each, depending on their level of experience working with dementia. Volunteers with a degree or past experience in psychology, social work, or counseling are especially valuable in this position—it’s an ideal placement for an older adult with a background in psychology or counseling, who has experience dealing with dementia, prefers sitting to standing, enjoys speaking on the phone, and is good with people.
Address: 4340 Redwood Highway Suite D-314, San Rafael, CA 94903
Phone: 408-372-9900 (Contact Dori Sproul)
For older adults who enjoy working with kids, volunteering at one of Marin County’s local schools might provide a breath of fresh air. This flexible position allows volunteers to come in as little as one hour per week, though most do at least several hours. Either way, older adults can volunteer according to their needs and schedule. Similarly, they can choose between volunteering during regular school hours inside the classroom, or helping students with homework during an after school program.
Your loved one might be asked to tutor students one-on-one in specific subjects, act as a leader for a small group of students, or guide projects. There are opportunities to volunteer in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, depending on your loved one’s preference. And the Marin County School District will do their best to pair volunteers with a class or program that best fits their requests and needs.
To become a volunteer with a Marin County School, your loved one must fill out an application form, do a series of trainings, and get a fingerprint clearance to ensure their record is clean. While there are no prerequisites to volunteering with a local school, the role is best suited to older adults who have experience with teaching, are passionate about education, or enjoy spending time with youth.
Address: 1111 Las Gallinas Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94903
Ideal for older adults who are physically fit, in good health, and enjoy moving around, volunteering at the Marin Food Bank offers a flexible schedule and plenty of socialization. The Food Bank has volunteers of all ages, many of whom are teenagers. If your aging loved one enjoys spending time with youth, this might also be up their alley.
Volunteers can work during the daytime, evenings, or even weekends—and you can easily find out what shifts are available by looking at their calendar. Keep in mind that if your loved one needs to cancel a shift for any reason, a week’s notice is required.
During a shift at the Food Bank your loved one may be tasked with sorting food donations, packing food, or working with other volunteers to organize donations. Wearing warm clothing is highly recommended since the warehouse can be a bit chilly! If your loved one is in good shape, enjoys moving around, and likes working with their hands, this position will offer them a way to stay physically active while socializing with people from a variety of age groups.
Address: 75 Digital Drive, Novato, CA 94949
Phone: 415-282-1900, x 244
The Marin General Hospital has over 250 volunteers from all walks of life and backgrounds, between 16 and 90 years old. This diverse environment is a great place for older adults to immerse themselves in volunteering and to meet new friends. The hospital also provides a wide range of volunteer positions for your aging loved one to pick from. Being a volunteer here requires a fair bit of training, and the hospital requires an investment from their volunteer in return: your loved one will need to commit to at least 100 hours of volunteer work.
Some of the many positions that volunteers are needed for include retail service at stores inside the hospital, assisting nurses in the Psychiatric Unit, answering phones in the Cardiac Speciality Unit, facilitating groups at the Cancer Institute, conducting bi-monthly tours of the Maternity Unit, caring for patients in the Emergency Department, greeting visitors and patients at reception, and performing clerical duties at one of the hospital’s many other departments, such as the Intensive Care Department, Trauma Services, or Radiation Oncology.
If your loved one is considering applying to volunteer here, be aware that the process is initially a bit time intensive. After emailing Regina Thomas to apply, your loved one will need to get a health clearance which includes screenings for Tuberculosis, and proof they’re immune to chickenpox, mumps, and rubella. They’ll also need to do a hospital orientation and an in-person interview to see if they’re a good fit. If they become a volunteer, there will also be additional training for their specific placement. Volunteering at the hospital can offer your loved one significant rewards, especially if they’re looking to make a real difference in people’s lives, enjoy caring for others, or have had past experience working in healthcare.
Address: 250 Bon Air Road, Greenbrae, CA 94904
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Contact Regina Thomas)
With so many volunteer opportunities for older adults in Marin County, finding a position well-suited to your loved one’s needs should be achievable with a bit of research. Especially for older adults in need of socialization, volunteering can help them step out of their shell and embrace new relationships. Marin County is known for its friendly vibe and accepting community—and your aging loved one deserves to experience that on a regular basis.
More than just a way to connect with others, volunteering in Marin County can help your loved one feel a greater sense of purpose. And working somewhere they’re truly valued can positively impact how your loved one feels about themselves and their enthusiasm for life. So don’t hesitate to help your loved one explore their numerous options for volunteering in Marin County—feeling needed and appreciated can re-energize your aging loved one just when they need it the most.
If you’re unsure how to best support the social needs of your aging loved one, Institute on Aging offers a range of services, programs, and online resources. Contact us today to learn more.