5 Amazing Ways Retirees Can Volunteer and Give Back
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you’re passionate about working or helping others in retirement. Many people decide to give some of their free time after retirement. There are countless volunteer opportunities, whether at a national park or in your local HOA.
Volunteering is not only rewarding and helping others. It’s good for you too! Don’t take our word for it, listen to the research. A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over 50 who regularly volunteered lowered their blood pressure by 40%.
Ready to find the job that’s right for you? Here are five volunteer opportunities for retirees.
1. Volunteering for medical organizations
“I want others to know how much joy and satisfaction the right kind of volunteer work can bring after a career. It’s like a new career, and the one I’m most proud of. Laura Barber has been volunteering at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida since 2016. As a patient and family counselor, she visits other patients and caregivers and provides support via email and phone. “I can pick projects that make the most of my personal skills and are also things that I love and want to do, and I can really see that I’m making a difference,” Barber said.
She applied for the job after encouragement from one of her husband’s doctors at Moffitt. She had to go through extensive background checks and interviews to make sure it was a good fit. Barber says finding the right fit is so important. “I strongly recommend that retirees find a cause that fuels them with passion and energy; then it is the right one. I also recommend finding the right fit in terms of required hours and other commitments (if any).
“Often volunteering involves a financial commitment, so check that out as well. Ask lots of questions before you jump in, because nothing is worse than jumping in wholeheartedly with both feet and a ton of passion, then regretting it later (been there, done that!). That regret could be not understanding the implied financial commitment or the hours required or any number of things.
If you want to volunteer with a medical organization like a hospital, you may need to complete an application, attend a volunteer orientation or training session, and take a medical screening test. When choosing a location, be sure to ask what kinds of requirements are needed to become a volunteer.
2. National Park Service Volunteer Opportunities
If you love the great outdoors, you can make a huge impact by volunteering for national parks and communities across the country across the Volunteers in National Park Service parks program. There are so many ways to get involved, whether it’s in the elements, behind a desk, or alongside a park employee. Some volunteer positions require certain skills or knowledge, but others simply require your willingness to give back!
You can also volunteer for service day projects. For Earth Day, volunteers were needed for a national park cleanup. People were asked to gather to pick up trash in Indiana Dunes National Park. “Participating in the cleanup is a great way to be proud of your community, celebrate spring and enjoy your neighborhood national park,” Jim Whitenack, volunteer program manager, said in a statement.
Volunteers just had to show up at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on April 22 and were assigned a cleaning spot.
There are also advantages. You can get a free annual pass if you have 250 hours of service with a federal agency that participates in the interagency pass program. You will need to coordinate with your volunteer coordinator for more information.
3. Disaster Relief
One of the most sought-after volunteer positions in the American Red Cross is the Disaster Action Team (DAT). Every day, fires, storms and other disasters force people to leave their homes and their lives. It’s a great way to help over 6,000 emergencies each year. You will help by providing care and compassion, helping individuals and families find housing or clothing, and connecting them with long-term recovery services. The American Red Cross provides all the training you will need. During this pandemic, volunteers will primarily respond virtually, but for larger responses, on-site presence may be required.
Becky McCorry, 68, had a 25-year career with the organization, then decided to volunteer when she retired. “It’s in my ‘blood’ – No pun intended!” said McCorry, who is now part of the International Fellowship and serves in other countries. “For me, it keeps my mind charged. After working since I was 16, this would be the first time I have go to work. So, after reconnecting with my family and friends coming out of the pandemic, I knew I had to reconnect with something new and different in the world of the Red Cross.
“I’ve waited almost 6 months to fully jump in and volunteer and now I’m probably volunteering an average of 10-15 hours a week. From serving as a volunteer leadership partner to our VP for Programs disaster, taking courses and now my immersion in international service learning, my plate is full on a daily basis.Our organization has so many opportunities to volunteer: as a leader of others, as a person who works directly with disaster-affected residents, or even as a behind-the-scenes or remote support function.
McCorry says volunteering in retirement is important because she gets to know herself, meets new people and supports those in need. “Try it! Find your passion or something that tugs at your heart. Join in and try something new. Although you need to “shop around” to find what works for you, I guarantee it “will enrich your soul”.
You can also help with blood collection support. This is another high priority position within the organization. You can join a rescue team to help support blood collection teams in your community.
from the editor Note: Want to be inspired by an incredible story of activism that includes international disaster response? See the memoirs of Kinari Webb, MD, Guardians of the trees.
4. The Humane Society and Animal Shelters
We know many of you are animal lovers. Our pets mean so much to us, so why not help save a life? human society has volunteer opportunities in every state in many different areas, including fundraising, policy change, and the animal rescue team.
Local animal shelters are also a good place to volunteer. They need animal walkers, photographers, creative writers, animal groomers and kennel helpers.
Dan Antrim has volunteered as a dog walker for Pinellas County Animal Services in Largo, Florida for 3 years. “Volunteers can walk each dog in a way they choose, which will help them exercise, learn socialization skills, get used to walking on a leash, or learn a new command or two. .”
Antrim enjoys volunteering in retirement because he feels he has value and something to contribute. “You will keep your mind active. You may become depressed if you frequently sit at home watching local/national news on your television. Your health will improve and you will reduce your risk of disease. You probably need a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Barbara Handley has volunteered at Pinellas County Animal Services for about a year. She says “giving back” is a positive and rewarding way to spend the free time available after retirement. “First, think about what areas you are passionate about. Next, also consider your abilities and strengths. Find what you love to do and you will surely succeed.
Many of us spend time in our gardens, making our own landscaping look amazing. Why not help others do the same? Laura Barber not only spends time volunteering at a hospital, she is also a volunteer master gardener in Florida at the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Florida. She assists clients with their horticultural needs. Laura graduated in the fall of 2013 from that year’s Master Gardener Volunteer class. Classes are held every 2 years in Hillsborough County.
“I’ve been a gardener all my life and I’m always interested in learning more. The MGV program includes an annual continuing education requirement, so this was right up my alley. I especially enjoy helping our customers grow vegetables and butterflies. She strongly recommends volunteering in retirement in this way: “In no particular order: to feel a sense of accomplishment; to gain more knowledge; to sleep better at night; to meet new friends who share your aspirations; realize that your donations mean a lot and can help others!”
These are just a few of the opportunities available to you. If finding the best way to give back seems overwhelming, there are volunteer organizations, like VolunteerMatch, who can connect you with open positions based on your skills and experience. It will put you in touch with a cause that you are passionate about. You can work with a volunteer coordinator to find a role that fits your lifestyle and is fun!
Pro tip: Every volunteer we spoke to said pick something you’re passionate about. Pick something that develops a task or hobby and consider your abilities and strengths. Remember that volunteering is supposed to be rewarding.
Handley had this advice to start with: “Do it! You will be amazed at how fulfilling it is. You’ll probably end up saying you got more back than you gave!