We’ve all had times in our lives when we needed a helping hand. For seniors, that help might involve some assistance with household chores, preparing meals, accessing educational opportunities, or dealing with health issues, among others.
We researched seven charities that benefit seniors, each of which has earned a sound reputation for reliable support by well-trained volunteers and/or professionals.
Since many of these organizations do rely on volunteers, if you find something that intrigues you, you might want to consider volunteering your time and skills.
Charities that Benefit Seniors
If you don’t find what you need here, head to your favorite search engine to find additional resources. The U.S. has an abundant amount of local charities that benefit seniors and that are dedicated to aiding their neighbors and strengthening their communities.
1. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)
The AFA was established in 2002 to provide support and information to those suffering from Alzheimer’s and to their caregivers and loved ones. This invaluable resource is made up of more than 2,600-member organizations nationwide.
It supplies a full range of information, educational tools for caregivers, a calendar of events, and various types of practical assistance. Whether you’re looking for the latest research, where to take caregiving classes, how to contact a support group, or how to register for a webinar, the AFA is your best bet.
They also have a section on their website on the value of “memory screening,” a useful diagnostic tool available nationwide and at no cost to you. (For the record, the AFA has provided more than four million free memory screenings to date.) You can visit the website above or if you just need someone to talk to, phone the Help Hotline: 866-232-8484.
2. Honor Flight Network (HFN)
Earl Morse and Jeff Miller, who co-founded the Honor Flight Network, were inspired by their respect for veterans to provide vets the opportunity for closure, if possible. The HFN also aims to give veterans the chance to share a special experience with other men and women who have served their country in one or another branch of the military.
Since 2005, the network has flown thousands of veterans to Washington, DC – free of charge – to view the memorial commemorating their war. Heroes Welcome, a subgroup of the HFN, orchestrates a suitable and rousing welcome for these heroes as they get off the plane in DC, and possibly when they exit the plane on the return trip. There are volunteer guardians who escort the veterans around town.
Naturally, the focus now is on WWII veterans and any veterans, of any war, with a terminal illness. As time progresses, the focus will shift to veterans of Korea, then Vietnam, and so on. In the 46 states participating, there are anywhere from one to nine airport “hubs, where these flights are scheduled.
There are four states, at present, that are not in the network: Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
3. Meals on Wheels America (MWA)
No list of charities that benefit seniors would be complete without Meal on Wheels America. With over 5,000 independently run (not government financed) local chapters across the U.S., meals can be delivered to anyone who qualifies, and for a very moderate fee. At present, at least 18% of U.S. seniors have trouble obtaining or preparing the food they need.
Of course, the food, catered to each senior’s dietary requirements (and delivered on the days he or she chooses), is essential to the recipient’s well-being, but MWA’s motto states their service is “More than just a meal.” For one thing, having this necessity taken care of may enable the senior to continue living in their own home versus entering a facility, good for both their self-esteem and pocketbook, and good for the community.
Additionally, the social interaction that accompanies the meal is just also meaningful, benefiting both the senior and volunteer, helping to further promote that invaluable sense of community. To find out if you or someone you know would qualify for MWA, to volunteer, to make a donation, or to learn more about the significance of MWA’s actions, check out their website or phone their center in Arlington, VA: 1-888-998-6325.
4. Pets for the Elderly (PFE)
Companionship is something most creatures crave, human and otherwise, and this is what PFE aims to provide. As scientific studies have proven, the company of animals improves the emotional and mental outlook, while also lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dog ownership, in particular, promotes exercise for both owner and pet plus increasing opportunities to socialize.
Regardless of the type of animal you select, you’re likely to feel a deeper, healthier sense of connection to this world, a state of mind that may well help battle the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, or at least slow the progress.
All that said, the melding of seniors and shelter animals is a mutual life-saving match made in heaven. Currently, PFE is allied with 54 animal shelters in 34 states. To discover if there’s a shelter near you, visit their website.
5. Second Wind Dreams
No matter your age, you’re never too old to have a dream, and those dreams, when possible, should be fulfilled. That’s the belief that spawned Second Wind Dreams back in 1997. Since then, more than 10,000 dreams have been made a reality for elders living in nursing homes, assisted living and memory care communities.
A growing number of elder care facilities participate in SWD, encouraging their residents to talk about what they still want from life. This could be acquiring a pet, being reunited with family or friends, visiting a special place, or any of a myriad number of desires.
Besides making dreams a reality, SWD also sponsors the Virtual Dementia Tour. This uses virtual reality technology and trained guides, permitting those free of the illness to experience how dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers view the world. It also allows us to find out firsthand how, with the onset of dementia, common everyday tasks can become impossible.
6. SeniorNet: Education and Empowerment
Founded in the U.S. back in 1986, presciently foreshadowing a future where computers would become an essential of everyday life, SeniorNet has since become an international organization. Their Learning Centers are staffed by trained volunteers who follow a carefully crafted curriculum.
All this is premised on the understanding that maintaining a foothold in the world these days is a great deal easier for those who are computer savvy.
Not only does this sort of knowledge allow one to continue learning by taking online classes or researching topics of interest, but it also facilitates communication, socialization, and creativity.
In the 150+ classes offered, instructors cover everything from computer basics to digital photography, as well as how to avoid scams, protect your computer and more. Membership is a nonrefundable $43 a year, which grants access to any Learning Resource Center in the country plus access to exclusive portions of the website.
7. Shepherd's Centers of America (SCA)
Shepherd’s Centers of America (SCA) was built on the idea of community, and that no one should be excluded from it, regardless of age or health. Established in 1971, SCA has been providing opportunities to some 160,000 seniors (and their caregivers) every year to live their lives fully so that they, and everyone around them, benefits. They offer a three-part menu:
- Adventures in Learning: Through SCA, elders – usually taught by elders – can learn a language, or study finance, politics or pretty much anything you can think of.
- Adventures in Wellness: Recognizing that wellness is a complex combination of nutrition, physical activity, mental challenges, health screenings, and a belonging, SCA offers a full range of fitness classes to suit your tastes and needs, from chair exercises to Zumba.
- Adventures in Volunteering: Aware that this is a way of giving back to the community, SCA promotes volunteerism for its other fringe benefits, as well. Among other things, it’s fun, you can make friends, add to your repertoire of life experience, and enhance your health on every level. Regardless of how much – or how little – time you can give, you might choose to tutor, serve as a part-time caregiver, provide office support, or care for shelter animals. Whatever your skill set and interests, there are any number of people or organizations that would value your time, energy, and talent.
Whether you are looking for a worthwhile senior citizen organization to volunteer with, donate funds, or are looking for resources for a loved one, these well-respected organizations have earned a place in our hearts. If you know of an organization not listed here that deserves a mention, please leave a comment below and let us know all about it!