No matter what your age, it’s vital to your health to stay busy and active. Many older adults who are nearing retirement start to consider what they’ll do with spare time on their hands. Volunteering in your free time is a great option that can be both fun and rewarding. Depending on the type of volunteer activity you choose – it can also keep you both physically and mentally fit.
Retirees frequently find it difficult to transition out of the workplace. You can lose your sense of purpose with such a sudden change to your lifestyle and your routine. Volunteering in retirement can benefit you as much as it does the world around you. Seniors who volunteer stay connected to their community, and adults over 65 make up 25% of the total volunteer population. Locating volunteer opportunities for retirees can help to ease the transition and combat depression.
To find the right volunteer opportunity for older adults – you may want to answer some of these questions:
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What skills do you have that you would like to share?
- How much time do you have to give?
- Would you like to work indoors or outdoors?
- Do you work better in a team or one-on-one?
- Do you prefer working with animals, or helping children or adults?
- Are there any charities that are important to you?
There are many different choices for volunteering once you’ve narrowed down your preferences and goals. The following are some options based on the type of volunteer opportunities you may be looking for.
Volunteering for Fun
On the Golf Course
Did you know that you can volunteer to usher at a local golf course either for a charity event or on the weekends? If you’re a fan of the sport – you can use your volunteer time as a way to attend a big golf tournament or to simply enjoy a round or two on the weekend. Many golf courses reward seniors who volunteer with free rounds of golf. You can also volunteer as a golf coach to help teach young people how to play.
If you are a theatre buff, there are many opportunities to volunteer at your local theatre. Theatre volunteers hand out playbills or sell snacks in exchange for tickets to popular shows. Additionally, if the show that you are working has a low turnout, a volunteer can usually just plop down in an empty seat to watch along with the other patrons until the curtain comes down and the lights come up.
Working with Animals
If your passion involves our furry friends, you’ll find many opportunities to play with pups or kittens, or even walk dogs at your local shelter. Shelters really benefit from volunteers who can cover these responsibilities – especially on holidays, so that employees can take a break to be at home with loved ones.
Volunteering to Help Those in Need
Feeding the Hungry
Not surprisingly, a large percentage of volunteers work in the areas of food service. This includes serving meals to the homeless and lending a hand at the local food bank. Some food service volunteers are also drivers for Meals on Wheels or help to organize local food drives.
Mentoring and Tutoring
Many retirees have knowledge and experience that they can share with others. You can choose to volunteer as a mentor or tutor at a local community center or a group home for displaced youth. This positive engagement can help steer someone in the right direction – especially if they’ve been left on their own.
You’ll find it extremely fulfilling sharing your knowledge to help people succeed both personally and academically.
Become a Foster Grandparent
The foster grandparent program that’s offered through Americorps.gov allows folks over the age of 55 to be paired with a child-in-need in a local community or online. Building a connection with a child who needs guidance and support can be a gratifying way to spend your spare time.
National Parks Service
The National Parks Service relies on a network of volunteers to help manage their 418 park sites. Volunteers hand out brochures, give directions or can help with park clean up. The great thing about volunteering with the National Parks Service is that they will work with you to find an opportunity that matches your skill set. If you put in enough hours, you can even earn a free annual park pass.
Beach Clean Up
The Surfrider Foundation has partnered with the Better Beach Alliance to develop a national beach cleanup program that includes Hawaii and Puerto Rico. They currently have a volunteer network of over 140,000 people of all ages. Their efforts have resulted in the removal of over 960,000 pounds of trash from beaches and coastal areas.
By volunteering for a beach cleanup, you can support your community and make new friends while spending a few hours on the beach.
Volunteering for Travel
Join the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps recognizes the value of older volunteers who have skills and experience that they can share with the global community. Through their 50-Plus initiative, the Peace Corps is now actively recruiting older adults for both long-term (2 years) or short-term (3 months) commitments. Volunteers are trained and placed in one of many global communities in need of support. The Peace Corps will provide you with both a housing and a living stipend, and they cover all your medical expenses while you are on assignment.
Volunteering provides connection and a sense of purpose for seniors and recent retirees. You can make new friends and learn new skills while staying connected to others. Working as a volunteer can combat depression and loneliness, especially if you are an older person who is single or lives alone.
If you are interested in volunteering, there are hundreds of organizations and websites that are dedicated to helping seniors and retirees get involved locally, nationally, or internationally.