August 19, 2016   |   NO COMMENTS

Congratulations on your retirement! It’s your turn to have fun, travel, spend time with friends and family and complete all those home organization projects you’ve promised yourself. At some point, though, you might sit back and wonder what to do next. You’ve been busy with career and family for many years; now is your opportunity to think about giving back as a volunteer. Of course, you may have been volunteering all along for school events, religious organizations or professional groups.  But now, a world of new possibilities is opening for you.

Giving Back

Retirees are sought after volunteers! In fact, older adults contribute more than three billion hours of community service each year. As an older adult, you may have more free time available than you did just a few years ago. You have skills and experience that are in demand by non-profits and community organizations. You might want to continue your professional work in a new setting or do something completely different—and often on a flexible schedule that fits your lifestyle.

Do I hear you ask “what’s in it for me”?  There are so many benefits to volunteering, both tangible and emotional. Volunteers find their roles fulfilling, providing a greater sense of purpose and making a positive difference in the world. In one study, 70% of retirees said that being generous with time or charitable giving provides a significant source of happiness.

In a very real sense, volunteering will make you feel better. Research has shown that volunteers show higher levels of self esteem, lower rates of depression, lower blood pressure and lower mortality rates! These benefits are especially notable in those with other life stresses or those at risk of social isolation. Those social connections don’t stop at the end of your volunteer shift; 85% of retiree volunteers say that they have developed new friendships in their new roles.

So what is the perfect volunteer position for you? Decide how much time you want to give. Do you want a set time each week, or would you rather work on one big project at a time? Where do you want to work?  What are you passionate about? The perfect opportunity may be an expansion of something you have done in the past or are already doing now. If you are a little nervous about stepping into a new volunteer commitment, find a friend who might enjoy working with you, 

Are you looking forward to traveling in your retirement, but still want to find a way to give back? Eco-vacations and short to medium term volunteer assignments are available around the world. More than 500 older adults are currently serving in the Peace Corps. The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah accepts volunteers to work with animals for a week or two at a time, with discounted cabin or hotel rentals in the area. A bonus is Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks at your doorstep!

If you need ideas and inspiration to direct your search for the perfect volunteer opportunities, here are a couple of great websites. You will find organizations hoping for your help at your doorstep and around the world.

It’s ok if you have been retired for awhile and haven’t volunteered yet—or if you are looking at retirement soon, but want time to relax before making any big commitments. Take your time.  This is your moment! Just remember that it is never too late. Jeffie Carter, of Jackson Mississippi, volunteered from the time of her retirement in 1983 and was still helping out at the Salvation Army in 2013 at age 98! Her secret?  “As long as you can help others, you don’t think about yourself.” 


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