Volunteering is one of the most worthwhile activities you can do and there are tremendous opportunities out there where you can make a difference in the world. Many organizations are in need of people to volunteer their time doing simple tasks and they have found the retired population to be one of their best sources for competent and caring individuals who look forward to helping out as often as they can. The variety of “jobs” or positions are almost endless so you can almost custom design a situation that will work for you and the organization you are helping. You can even be a consultant for small businesses who may need your expertise. The main thing is to find something you have an interest in or it will soon become just another chore you have to do.
For example, if you like animals, shelters and veterinarians are a great place to start. Many times you’ll start with a simple task as a way to “feel each other out” and make sure the arrangement will work for both parties. In any situation there should be a clear understanding of the expectations on both sides covering the hours of availability and the tasks performed. We know someone who volunteers at a horse farm cleaning out stables in exchange for boarding her own horse.
Hospitals are also a good place to volunteer. We know of a couple who just direct visitors to the right building and department. They look forward to their Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and feel like they’re making a contribution and they’re absolutely right – in their own way they’re making a difference in people’s lives and they get a tremendous satisfaction from the occasional “thank you” that comes their way.
Your local church is also a place to look at for volunteering. Many of them have a food pantry or thrift shop and they’re always looking for an extra hand to help customers or stock the shelves. Volunteering in places like these is a great way to build your social network if that is one of the things you’d like to do. Loneliness is a terrible thing and a simple act like volunteering in an organization is a great way to cure it by meeting new people, keeping busy and making a difference in the lives of the people you come in contact with. We have many friendships that have lasted for years all because we were involved in a volunteer activity.
Don’t overlook historical sites or National Parks because they have a great need for volunteers as well. In these types of locations, there may be added benefits that can be very attractive. Often, they’ll have volunteer appreciation events where you may go behind the scenes at some historic site. We’re members of the Historical Preservation Society and have had discussions with some of the volunteers at historic houses who have described wonderful dinners for the volunteers in the house itself. Even though they’re volunteering their time, many of them feel that gotten back far more than they’ve given.
That is true of almost every volunteering opportunity. You’ll feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction in donating your time or money, to make a difference in a cause that means something to you. Volunteering can bring happiness and added fulfillment in a way that strengthens you mentally and emotionally. For many people, giving back something to others is the most meaningful part of retirement.