Being older and retired has its perks, like cheaper cinema tickets, free eye tests, and plenty of time to spare. However, one thing that you might find missing without work is a sense of purpose.
One way to regain this sense of purpose is through volunteering, and fortunately there’s a number of options available to retirees. Here’s our guide to giving back - and getting the most out of it.
Becoming a volunteer in retirement
Before you commit to volunteering, consider what you can offer and what causes you care about. To decide which type of volunteering would suit you best, ask yourself the following:
- Where would I be willing to travel to?
- How often do I want to volunteer?
- Who am I hoping to help?
Once you know the answers to these questions you can begin narrowing down your choices. Align your values with your voluntary work to make it meaningful for you.
Where can I volunteer as a retiree?
There’s always a need for more volunteers. From your local school board all the way to charity support abroad. Volunteers are the cornerstone of any community.
Give your expertise through governance
Sharing your skills is a great way of giving back. Through your career you learnt a lot, why let that workplace experience go to waste?
Board roles are available - especially in education - and ideal for people with a background in:
- Human Resources
Often advertised as a few hours a month, they offer an opportunity to provide leadership in a learning environment.
Public health and the NHS
Helping out can be more hands-on. After a long period of pressure on the NHS there’s more awareness about how essential these services are. And you don’t need to be a doctor to pitch in - there are plenty of simple but vital tasks you can do.
Your local hospital is likely to have a Volunteer Service Manager, who has oversight on all the volunteering opportunities your nearby NHS organisation offers.
- Organisations like the National Health Service (NHS) have a broad range of volunteering opportunities calling people that are isolating and alone as a Check In and Chat Plus Volunteer or guiding people at COVID-19 vaccination sites as a Steward Volunteer.
All support is appreciated as these essential services continue to operate under challenging conditions.
Regular routine of local support
High streets are scattered with charity shops for a huge range of causes that rely on rotations of volunteers. Helping out is a great way of getting out into the community and meeting new people in your neighbourhood.
Here’s a list of some of the high streets largest charity shop retailers:
Casual volunteering comes with perks - with less commitment and more cups of tea. You can even have some costs expensed, like parking on days you volunteer!
‘Voluntourism’ where charity meets travel
A retirement of spontaneity and adventure doesn’t work with volunteering, does it? Well not all voluntary roles are on a regular basis.
Combining the community support of volunteering and travelling of tourism, ‘Volunteerism’ is popular with pensioners with cultural curiosity - and generosity of course. It’s an opportunity to learn and teach simultaneously.
Though this may seem out of reach with current coronavirus travel restrictions, there are several programs still taking applicants for this year.
- Organisations like Global Vision International (GVI) offer volunteering experiences - from protection of turtles in Greece to rainforest conservation in Peru.
How volunteering helps your health
We all want to age well, right? Really it’s not about living longer, but a better quality of living. And health is at the heart of that. Here’s how volunteering helps your health:
Stay active and strengthen muscles
Most volunteering involves some element of movement - even simply stacking shelves with books - and any increase in movement is good for your muscles.
Advice from Age UK for inactive adults includes:
- Regular standing
- Standing without help
- Gentle stretches
- Walking between rooms
If you’re making an active effort to keep active, yes, swimming at your local leisure centre or taking yoga lessons is an option. But it’s not free. Volunteering is free, and comes with a complimentary sense of fulfillment.
Avoid isolation and expand your social circle
Feeling fulfilled feels good and does good. Beyond how your body is benefitted by voluntary work, your wellbeing is boosted too. We create a routine of socialising in our working lives, from coffees with colleagues to kitchen catch-ups. Once you’re retired and at home more, you’ll miss out on those little moments. To avoid feeling lonely, you’ll have to be a bit pro-active, and volunteering can help greatly with increasing your social interactions.