Are you already a volunteer?

Perhaps you help out with a church group or at a school canteen? If you are not being paid, you are indeed a volunteer, even if you haven’t been given that specific title.

Maybe you’re already officially one of the 23% of people aged over 65 who volunteer in the US?

By definition, a volunteer is anyone who does something of their own free will.

It usually means that you receive no pay or compensation other than perhaps a meal or reimbursement of your expenses, such as transport costs.

These days, you may even pay for the privilege of volunteering with some organizations. They can’t always afford to insure you unless you chip in.

  1. What are the advantages of volunteering in retirement?

    Volunteering has many advantages, especially for a new retiree. Firstly, it can help you to meet new people, at a time when you may miss the contact of your former workmates. Secondly, you can establish a routine that will give some structure to your retirement days. Becoming a volunteer can give your life purpose and meaning if you choose an activity that suits your abilities and personality. You may even receive free training to ensure that you’re able to perform your duties adequately. And statistics prove that volunteers live longer. Not only that, their self-esteem is better because they continue to engage with others in society. They know that they have their part to play in helping others – that they belong.

  2. What skills do I have that would be valued in a volunteer role?

    Have you had a career as an accountant? Or a nurse? If you want to use your existing qualifications and skills as a volunteer, type the specific words and your location into your search, as keywords. Use Seek, any other employment search engine, or Google. Don’t forget to include “volunteer” as a keyword.

    Do you speak a second language? Languages are often needed in elder care, because people living with dementia or other health issues tend to revert to their first Language. Refugee organizations need languages too.

    Do you love working with computers? Many non-profit organisations would appreciate help with maintaining a website, answering emails or administrating online forums. Online volunteering is a good option if you have limited mobility, because you can do it from home.

    But you don’t need formal qualifications to become a volunteer . . .

  3. What opportunities are available that will really inspire me?

    Do a thorough search of available volunteering roles online. Don’t be in too much of a hurry! Next week you might see something that you hadn’t even thought of. Your searches may reveal volunteer activities that represent something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the resources for.

    Have you always lived in a rented apartment, yet yearned for a pet? Elderly people often become too immobile to exercise their own dogs.

    If you like animals and have never had your own dog, you will love to walk the dog and maybe even help to groom the animal as well.

    Never had a garden of your own?  How about joining a gardening team? Many community organizations fund such teams so that elderly people can afford to keep their gardens in order. You will be helping them to stay in their own home and age in place, when they can no longer get out there with the mower.

  4. How much of my time do I want to devote to volunteering?

    It’s probably easier to find a few hours of volunteering per week than it is to find longer time-spans. Spending part of your day volunteering once or twice a week would allow you time to take care of your other commitments – home family, friends and leisure activities.

    Short term projects may suit you better if you spend a lot of time away from home. For example I spent four Saturday mornings one summer helping disabled kids learn to ride a bike. A couple of weeks ago I volunteered for just one day at a multicultural festival. Short term volunteering projects are a great way to add variety and interest to your life when you can’t commit long-term.

    If you find your perfect role, you may be prepared to travel that much further than you would for something that doesn’t appeal quite as much. Look at the details of any potential journeys – routes, time of day, traffic etc. and consider how much it will cost you in petrol or fares. Can you claim a reimbursement? You might agree to spend more time travelling for a whole day’s volunteering than you would for just an hour or two.

  5. How much of a contribution can I make?

    Your greatest contribution will be to something that you feel passionate about.  Do you have a cause that you have always followed?

    Cleaning up the environment or protecting wildlife? Prison reform or preventing homelessness? Many people who feel that they have had a privileged life want to give something back to those less fortunate. Mentoring a young person who lacks the support of a loving family might be your ideal placement. Once you have found a role that motivates you, your contribution could be considerable.

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