As life takes its natural course, it is inevitable that everyone will eventually grow old. While the United States is ranked eighth in the world for the wellbeing of the elderly, several of the world’s developing countries lack sufficient elderly care centers for senior living.
If you love volunteering at your neighborhood senior center, volunteering abroad for elderly care is an ideal way to directly impact communities around the world. Hundreds of thousands of Americans live in assisted living centers but others abroad are not as fortunate. Transform your time abroad into meaningful travel by choosing a program that not only suits your needs, but also benefits the mental health and happiness of the elderly.
Volunteer for Elderly Healthcare
In order to maintain the elderly’s social contracts, self-worth, and self-sufficiency, programs exist to help seniors volunteer to be foster grandparents. Foster grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends to children with exceptional needs.
These programs help citizens over 55 by not only keeping them mentally and physically active, but by also benefiting the community’s children. Volunteer abroad at one of these organizations that link senior citizens with the youth.
Volunteering can be achieved at thousands of local organizations. These include organizations that aim to teach children how to read and learn, provide extra help or one-on-one tutoring, mentor troubled teenagers or those seeking self-help, care for premature infants or children with disabilities, and more.
By helping connect the elderly to the youth in need, seniors are able to impart their comforting love, wisdom, and compassion to the children who need it most.
Additional resources and opportunities can be found through Senior Corps.
Volunteer for Financial Security for the Elderly
A large portion of the world's elderly population is unable to work and support themselves financially. Volunteer with a program to help the elderly achieve financial independence. Programs such as Social Aid work through strengthening people by building partnerships and helping the vulnerable and poorest of the poor.
Social Aid is just one example of an independent, humanitarian, not-for-profit agency, working through representative offices and independent NGO partners, with volunteers, supporters and staff. Social Aid’s mission is to build powerful global partnerships to voice for protecting and empowering poorest of the poor and marginalized communities in the world building upon diversity, collective resources and experiences.
Volunteer for Elderly Transportation
Programs such as TOUCH Home Care (THC) provide home medical, home nursing, and home rehabilitative services to help the frail elderly with mobility problems enjoy greater independence and better quality of life at home. They are now actively seeking for more volunteers, so travel abroad to Singapore or other countries to join them!
Touch Home Care also offers other programs such as Befrienders and Meals-on-Wheels. Befrienders is a program where volunteers who are comfortable with speaking with and handling the elderly accompany clients, usually wheelchair bound, to their hospital check ups.
Meals-on-Wheels is a meal delivery program designed to meet the daily needs of the home-bound elderly. The elderly, who usually live alone, depend on volunteers from TOUCH Home Care's Meals-on-Wheels to deliver their meals every day.
Additional resources can be found on Touch Home Care's homepage.
The senior citizen demographic group has recently emerged in South Asia. Until about two to three decades ago, the average lifespan for a South Asian native was under 60 years.
Because the elderly were typically cared for by immediate families, they remained virtually invisible. Developing countries such as Pakistan and India suffer from political instability and lack of economic growth.
This leads to weak pension systems and low savings for the elderly. With limited resources and a lack of experience with aging, South Asian countries are facing many difficulties providing proper health and medical care for their elderly population.
World Bank statistics reports the world’s population of the elderly has been steadily increasing since 1948 due to declining fertility and increasing life expectancy. It is predicted that most of the elderly population growth will be in developing countries, such as those in South Asia.
According to these statistics, life expectancy will increase to 75 years for men and 82 years for women, drastically increasing the elderly population by nine times between 2010 and 2025.
In Pakistan, the elderly population of 7.2 million is slowly increasing to make up approximately 10 percent of the population. As this number is expected to rise to 15 percent within the next decade, more responsibility will be put on the younger generation. Volunteer in one of Pakistan’s multiple programs to assist the elderly. These programs would assist in integrating the aging population while striving for better social security and health care.
As worldwide life expectancy slowly increases, those residing in sub-Saharan Africa are also living longer. In developing countries such as Tanzania, this demographic shift is occurring against other problems, such as poverty and poor health conditions. This increased aging negatively impacts the health of the elderly in these low-income environments.
An experiment by Global Health Action used a short version of the WHO Survey on Adult Health and Global Ageing questionnaire to measure health status, quality of life, and wellbeing of older adults living in rural Tanzania during early 2007. The results concluded that among people aged 50 and over, quality of life and health status were directly correlated with being male, married, and not being the oldest of the population. Women suffered as their routine activities became more difficult with age and the overall population experienced poor quality of life.
Organizations such as HelpAge International have helped the impoverished elderly natives of Tanzania since 1993. They have a rights-based approach and aim to achieve the following:
- Reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS on older people and their families by working directly with them and by influencing government policy
- Raise the profile of older people in society, and make sure their voices are heard by local authorities
- Strengthen the position of older women, so they can claim their rights and fight back against abuses such as witchcraft accusations
- Improve older people's incomes
- Fight malaria by providing mosquito nets and education.
Ranked the worst country in the world for the elderly by the United Nations Populations Fund and HelpAge International, Afghanistan is struggling to accommodate its growing elderly population. Pension payments are as low as $10 a month and most children are too poor to support their parents. Many of Afghanistan’s senior citizens are pushed to continue in the workforce for income stability.
A study by Afghan Mortality Survey in 2011 reported that average life expectancy rose from 45 for women and 47 for men in 2006 to 61 and 62 years. This growing demographic of senior citizens now constitutes 6 percent of the country’s population. Along with this elderly population growth comes general health conditions, food insecurity, and changes in lifestyle.
Health workers are reporting that disabilities common in the elderly, such as decreased eyesight, slower mental processing, and memory loss, have increased. Over 65 percent of people over 50 in Afghanistan are experiencing eyesight difficulties.
Volunteer abroad in Afghanistan for elderly care with programs such as Doctors Without Borders, Health Volunteers Overseas, and International Medical Corps to improve the mental health and happiness of the elderly less fortunate.
Before traveling abroad, here are some awesome organizations that make it their goal to volunteer for the elderly. They offer more insight on certain projects and can help you focus on certain issues such as the rights of elderly women, elderly healthcare, or elderly income security.
- Doctors Without Borders is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care.
- Mercy Ships is a global charity dedicated to sending hospital ships to developing nations since 1978. They offer hope and healing to the forgotten impoverished people from developing countries never discriminate based on race, gender, or religion.
- Unite For Site is an organization where volunteers participate in hands-on clinical service while assisting eye doctors in rural areas, refugee camps, and slums. Patients receive free surgery funded by Unite For Sight so no patient remains blind due financial reasons.
- The Financial Service Volunteer Corps is a non-profit, private-public partnership where volunteers strive to aid developing countries financially. Their mission is to build sound banking and financial systems in developing countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
- Over50andOverseas is a website and great tool for you to discover hundreds of different volunteering for the elderly programs.