Volunteering is good for the soul

April 16, 2024

Thousands of Delawareans engage in formal or informal volunteer activities every day, providing important assistance to neighbors while deriving satisfaction from helping others and contributing to the community’s well-being.

The observance of National Volunteer Month in April is a great opportunity to thank those who share their time and skills with others. It’s also a good time for those who have only thought about getting involved to sign up as a volunteer with one of the state’s many nonprofit groups or simply lend a hand outside of an organizational context.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps, nearly 64% of Delawareans said they helped others during 2021, the fourth-highest rate of informal volunteerism in the 50 states. The Census Bureau also found that 59% of baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – volunteered their time, the highest rate of any generation.

Numerous studies highlight how senior volunteers, in particular, benefit from their service.

The Mayo Clinic, for example, reported that volunteering improves physical and mental health, provides a sense of purpose, teaches valuable skills, and nurtures new and existing relationships.

Separately, researchers at Boston University found that physical activity and social engagement are among the behaviors contributing to longevity and mental sharpness in later life.

The university’s ongoing studies of older Americans found that continuing education, mental stimulation and social connectivity contributed to improved cognition. The research also suggests that activities such yoga and tai chi may enhance cognitive function.

The University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, at which I am both a member and a volunteer, brings together the benefits of education, social engagement, physical activity and community service.

With assistance from a small number of staff from UD’s College of Professional and Continuing Studies, volunteers set OLLI policy; make curriculum decisions; serve on committees; recruit new members; and lead classes covering a wide variety of academic subjects, music, crafts, exercise and extracurricular activities. There are no grades, exams or educational prerequisites.

OLLI course offerings are determined by member interest as well as the passions and expertise of volunteer member-instructors. Hundreds of courses are offered each year in spring, summer and fall semesters in Dover, Lewes, Wilmington and online.

OLLI programs are open to anyone 50 or older, and to spouses and partners of any age. We’re always looking for new instructors, committee volunteers and members. Go to to discover why OLLI is “where friends meet to learn.”

There are hundreds of organizations in Delaware seeking volunteers to help with causes ranging from animal welfare, the arts and literacy to environmental preservation, disaster relief and social services. To learn about available opportunities, go to the State Office of Volunteerism website at

Volunteering at any age is immensely rewarding and mutually beneficial. Help another and help yourself!

Connie Benko is a volunteer member and council chair for the University of Delaware’s combined Kent/Sussex Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program. She is a lifelong educator, teaching all ages from pre-K to adults.
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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