Boomers find volunteering rewarding

As 67-year-old Sharon Martin talks about why she volunteers at Spring Valley Hospital, she remembers how she interacted with a woman waiting to be called for a procedure.

Martin recalls that when she saw that the woman was teary-eyed, she walked over from her desk to comfort her.

The woman, who was 94, said she was about to have a test involving her brain. The more the frightened woman talked, the more Martin says she realized that she could probably help ease the woman’s anxiety.

It turned out that the woman was about to undergo a cerebral angiogram, a minimally invasive procedure that uses X-rays and an iodine-containing contrast material to produce pictures of blood vessels in the brain.

“I shared with her that I had the same procedure from the same doctor, and told her I’d be outside praying for her,” Martin says. “As the technician came out with a wheelchair to take the lady back for her test, she said to me, ‘Can I give you a hug? God had you here for me today, just for me.’”

While the baby boomer’s volunteer work obviously doesn’t always involve a coincidence that allows her to be especially helpful, Martin says the opportunity at her waiting room post to ease the fear of patients and their families and enhance communication with doctors “couldn’t be more rewarding.”

According to federal statistics, the volunteer rate for 74 million baby boomers is 33 percent — 5 points above the national average of 28 percent. Studies show that upon leaving the workforce, which Martin did in 2011, many boomers look for meaningful volunteer opportunities.

The Corporation for National and Community Service reported in 2013 that people older than 55 gave more than 3 billion hours of service at a value of $67 billion. The CNCS also found that about a third of boomers gravitate toward opportunities with a religious bent, followed by education, 22 percent; social service, 14 percent; and hospitals, 6 percent.

“I wanted to give back to a hospital that saved my life when I had a brain aneurysm,” Martin says. “And I also wanted social interaction. I think it’s important to give back to whatever we’ve found important in life. It’s not hard to find opportunities — just go to the internet.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Thursday in the Life section. Contact him at or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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