There is more to a happy retirement than just being able to pay your bills. While you do need a sound financial plan to cushion you against finance-related depression and stress, you also need something to keep you busy because retirement can slow down your social life. Volunteering is one of the best ways to do that, but finding the right opportunity can be tricky if you don’t have the right information.
Some of the best volunteering opportunities for retirees include offering to tutor kids, utilizing your trade skills, assisting the elderly, being a board member, using your creativity to help the needy, joining the Red Cross, and becoming a tour guide.
This article will explain in detail what these best volunteering opportunities for retirees are, why you seniors should volunteer, and how to prepare to make the most of this new chapter in your life. Let’s explore all of this below.
What Are the Different Types of Volunteering Opportunities?
From short-term jobs that can take a few weeks to long-term ones that can take up the rest of your life, volunteering opportunities come in many different forms, and knowing each type can help you choose the best fit.
The main types include:
These are structured, supervised volunteering programs that are usually long term and require volunteers to show up on a regular basis. Typically, they’re run by managers who recruit, train and supervise the volunteers’ work, and there’s an emphasis on getting things done on time, the right way.
As such, this type of volunteer work is best suited to people who don’t mind following laid down policies and procedures.
Example positions: Grant writer, tour guide, hospital volunteer, tutor, etc.
Sample activities: Welcoming and directing visitors, serving patients with meals, etc.
This type of volunteering opportunity requires you to provide direction and leadership to a given organization. As a volunteer, you will help plan and make decisions to ensure smooth operation, something that requires knowledge, skill, and experience in management.
This type of volunteer work is best suited to individuals looking to utilize their past professional experience to do some good.
Example positions: Board member of a non-profit, Chairman of a Parents Teachers Association of a local school, etc.
Sample activities: Basic accounting, taking meeting minutes, attending meetings regularly, etc.
Contrary to common belief, non-formal volunteering isn’t the same as informal volunteer work. Typically, non-formal volunteer activities are unfunded, unstructured, and done within local communities.
Informal volunteer work, on the other hand, refers to general acts of kindness such as babysitting for your neighbor or letting an elderly person have your seat when there aren’t any around.
Example positions: Member of a street cleaning activity, guest instructor, etc.
Sample activities: Teaching, trash picking, etc
In this type of volunteering work, the volunteers treat each other as friends or comrades because they are bound by a common goal or advocacy. While some volunteer programs of this sort are structured, others are not.
Generally, social action volunteers don’t necessarily have to maintain regular attendance. But due to the passion and commitment involved, they always make time to fight for what they believe in.
Example positions: political group lobbyists, environment protection campaigners, advocates for research, etc.
Sample activities: engaging people on topical issues, gathering signatures, attending a rally, making and carrying placards, etc.
This type requires the volunteer to offer their services to a project with a predetermined time frame and goals. More often than not, you’ll need to possess a specific set of skills to qualify for this kind of work.
Project-based volunteer work can be a standalone project or part of a formal program. And while it might involve project coordinators or leaders like a formal program, they’re meant to work with the volunteers, rather than manage them.
Example positions: A planning committee member, Folklorama volunteer, and so on.
Sample activities: Drafting communication plans, welcoming visitors, soliciting for advertisers of an event, etc.
The 7 Best Volunteering Opportunities
To make good use of your time and stay active as a retiree, you can:
You can add value to the life of a child by volunteering to help kids learn how to read or solve arithmetic questions. As a tutor, your role will include offering attention to either individual kids or small groups; engaging children in writing, helping them with literature exercises; and encouraging them to view reading and writing as fun activities.
If you don’t know where to find this kind of volunteer work, start by checking out the AARP Experience Corps volunteers. For years, the organization has been making an impact on children’s lives by encouraging retirees aged 50+ to work with teachers from kindergarten to grade three.
You can also take a look at the Senior Corps Foster Grandparent Program, which allows older volunteers to tutor children with special needs or and mentor young mothers. As a tutor here, you will provide consistency and educational assistance by:
- Helping kids learn to read through one-on-one tutoring
- Mentoring young mothers and troubled teens
- Providing care for kids with disabilities or premature infants
- Helping kids who have been neglected or abused
Utilize Your Trade Skills to Help the Needy
In addition to the professional skills that you acquired during your career time, you can also utilize your skilled trade competencies to help other people. Skills like carpentry, handyman, welding, or electrical are always in demand, and you can take advantage of this opportunity to make your retirement more fulfilling and help the needy at the same time.
A quick spot check at Habitat for Humanity reveals some volunteering opportunities that require skilled trades. If you can hold a paintbrush or a hammer, they need you. The organization works with learning institutions, corporations, and committed volunteer groups to design and provide construction volunteer programs that help build homes for people living in poor communities.
Assist the Elderly
Because of ill health, elderly folks may not be able to run around to pay bills, file paperwork for various transactions, buy groceries, or pick medical supplies from the store. As a volunteer, you’ll be helping them with these tasks.
If you can’t readily find such a volunteer opportunity within your community, take a look at the Senior Corps. They have programs that pair volunteers aged 55+ with the elderly to help them live an independent life, and you might be a good fit.
If running errands isn’t your cup of tea, you can teach the elderly a new skill or simply entertain them. If you are a good public speaker, for instance, you can easily endear yourself to the elderly by helping them recite some great historical speeches or even poetry. Likewise, you can volunteer for AARP’s Driver safety program and teach the elderly about modern road rules.
Become a Board Member
While many volunteer opportunities encourage one-on-one relationships, you can still make a difference as a volunteer by becoming a board member in an organization that shares your passions and interests. If you’re looking to enact change at the community level, for instance, you can join the board of a non-profit organization and help steer it to more success in that regard.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many volunteer opportunities of this type on the internet. But with platforms such as BoardnetUSA, you can still find volunteering opportunities that allow you to work as a board member.
Lean on Your Creative Side
The creative industry has tons of volunteer opportunities for seniors. And while you might be afraid because you’ve never worked in a creative field before, this shouldn’t discourage you because many volunteering gigs of this type allow you to learn on the job.
One example is the National Park Services. While some of their volunteer jobs do require specialized knowledge and skills, others simply need a bit of creativity and willingness to work. If you can find gigs in the latter category (photography, for instance), you’ll utilize your creativity to do some good.
Other volunteering opportunities in the creative industry you should check out include:
- Coaching writers via the Community Alliance for Learning
- Culture and art projects at Volunteer World
- Helping young writers perfect their craft via 826 National
- Delivering the healing power of music to patients in hospital via Musciansoncall
- Helping create success in the lives of inner-city youth and their families through a performance-based approach via the All Stars Project (ASP)
Offer to Help at Red Cross
There’s so much more you can do to help the Red Cross than simply donating blood. From its extensive list of volunteer positions, you’ll likely find something you can do to help make the world a better place.
And, it doesn’t even have to be something big or technical. You can make a difference by offering to do simple things like greeting and guiding guests as they come in, distributing leaflets and pamphlets, or even offering general information about the organization.
But if you have technical skills like grant writing, managing volunteers, and performing other administrative tasks, you can help with that, too.
Become a Tour Guide
If you love touring places, volunteering as a tour guide can be one of the most enjoyable ways to do some good as a retiree.
Note that for this to work, you need to know a thing or two about tourist attractions, be passionate about inspiring people, and possess the ability to communicate effectively with complete strangers.
So before picking up this type of opportunity, you’ll need to hone your skills a bit.
First, check on your public speaking skills. Tour guides need to be compelling public speakers because part of the job is capturing and keeping people’s attention throughout the tour. Depending on where you’re volunteering, the tour could last anywhere between 10 minutes to a few hours.
Next, become a subject matter expert. Research the places you’re looking to guide people to and update your knowledge about their history, geography, mythical stories, and basically any other info that’ll enrich the tour and paint you as a subject matter expert. Your visitors will pose questions, and one of the worst things you can do as a tour guide is being unable to answer them.
Why Retirees Should Volunteer
If you’re still on the fence about volunteering as a senior, here are some reasons why you should.
While you might have been looking forward to retirement as a period to relax after years of hard work, you may find it difficult to fit back into society. That’s because with retirement also comes isolation, where you have little to no contact with friends, relatives, or your adult children. In fact, 17% of people aged 55+ are facing isolation, and the numbers are on the increase.
Even though being alone might not seem like a big deal, social isolation has been linked to unpleasant outcomes such as increased mortality, high hospital bills, and predisposition to preventable illnesses like depression, migraines, obesity, and back pain.
This is one of the main reasons you should engage in voluntary work, even if it’s for a few hours per week. As a volunteer, you’ll have a chance to socialize with other people in the community. This will help keep you in a good mood and reduce the chances of developing isolation-related illnesses.
For Mental Alertness
Generally, staying active is recommended because it enhances motor and cognitive functions. But for seniors, it’s a requirement. This is because old age makes you more likely to develop conditions like memory loss and motor dysfunctions.
Luckily, volunteering improves physical and mental well-being. Through volunteer activities, you’ll put your body and brain to work, which will help prevent/slow down the advancement of motor and/or cognitive conditions. As a result, it’ll improve your general well-being and quality of life as a retiree.
Giving Back to the Community
It’s no secret that it feels great to give back to the community. There’s something about it that gives a sense of enrichment and fulfillment that many other things can’t provide.
So if you’ve ever felt like you’re not doing enough to help the needy in your community as a working individual, volunteering as a senior can help mend that.
It’s an Opportunity to Learn Something New
No one is an expert in everything, and learning never stops. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the time due to work commitments, volunteering as a senior can provide a platform to do that.
As a volunteer, you’ll be interacting with people from varying backgrounds and subject experts in different fields. Through this, you can learn a lot about cultures, art, or even an entirely new specialty field. Additionally, some volunteer opportunities require you to undergo extra training, which can also be a great chance to acquire new skills and knowledge.
Preparing for Volunteering Work as a Retiree
Like with any other type of work, you ‘ll need preparation to succeed as a senior volunteer. You’ll need to:
Some volunteering opportunities, especially the ones outside your previous specialty area, may require you to get some more training.
For instance, working with shelter dogs may require you to take a short course on the best practices for dog handling. This can take the form of on-site classes, online training videos, or on-the-job sessions with experienced volunteers.
Expand Your Scope of Search
Before you settle on volunteering activity, talk to your friends about it, search online, visit organizations, and make physical inquiries, or send out email requests. Doing this will expand your search scope and give you more options to choose from, which will help you choose the best fit.
When doing your search, don’t forget to check online, too. A quick search on sites such as the Idealist.org, VolunteerMatch.org, Serve.gov, and NationalService.gov can yield tons of opportunities from which you can select.
Tap Into Your Professional Background
Unless you are interested in a different field, it helps to capitalize on the skills and experience already acquired from your career.
When you approach an organization of your choice, bring out the unique skills that you have developed over time that make you stand out. Some volunteering opportunities get many applicants, and you need to show the organization you’re eyeing how your skillset makes you the best candidate for the job to be considered.
Keep in mind that it’s not just the job experience you should bring out. You can also apply to your life experience. In case you want to offer mentorship, for instance, you can use your life experiences as a base for your stories to motivate different people such as the homeless, the young, and even the working class.
Get Some Sort of Support
As a new entrant into volunteering, you are likely to get bored quickly, particularly if you bite off more than you can chew.
To avoid this, start small and grow gradually. Also, tag a friend along to give you moral support or team up with other like-minded individuals on larger, long term volunteering projects. This way, you’ll have someone to keep you going when the going gets tough, not to mention the fun you’ll have working as part of a group.
One thing you should bear in mind is that it will not be rosy at first. But with practice, you will start getting into your new role, so hang on.
In case you missed a few points here’s a quick recap of the best ways to volunteer as a senior:
- Tutor kids
- Use your trade skills
- Be a board member
- Become a tour guide
- Assist the elderly
- Join the Red Cross
- Use your creativity to help the needy
Remember that to succeed, you’ll need to get trained, expand your scope of search, tap into your professional background, and get some sort of support.
- Valamis: Continuous Learning
- The Balance: Basic Rules of Thumb for a Happy Retirement
- The Joint: How Financial Stress May Link to Depression
- Wikipedia: Aquatics
- AARP: Foundation Isolation Framework Report
- AARP: Health Benefits Volunteering Seniors
- Gerontology: Necessity Exercise Physical Activity and Aging
- Guidestar: Community Alliance for Learning
- jcisd: What is a Skilled Trade
- Habitat: Habitat for Humanity
- National Service: Senior Corps Programs
- Wikipedia: HandsOn Network
- HandsOn Network: About HandsOn Network
- Folklorama: Volunteers