Give Back to the Community by Volunteering
Volunteering is close to the top of many retirees’ to-do list after leaving work. Retirees have the best opportunity to give back and make a positive difference to someone or something. They have the most discretionary time, and they are looking for something to do with all that extra time.
Why not join the 13 million Canadians who, according to Statistics Canada, formally volunteer some of their time?
Since April is volunteer month, it’s the perfect time to give it a try.
The hardest part is getting started with your search. If you haven’t been involved before, think about what you like to do best, what suits your personality, and what fits into your lifestyle.
There are so many ways to be involved in the community. To find current opportunities, call on organization you know, contact your local volunteer centre, look in your neighbourhood newspaper, or check out websites or databases for volunteers.
You may not get a perfect match the first few tries but keep asking around and making it known in your community that you have skills to offer.
Combine volunteering with other things that are important in your life such as:
- Time with family – help out in your grandchild’s school or other activity.
- Travel and finding your next adventure – volunteer abroad.
- Spending time with friends – get a group together to plan a special event.
- Hobbies – teach painting or woodworking in a community centre.
- Recreation – be a swimming buddy for someone with a disability.
You may not get a perfect match at first but keep asking around and make it known that you have skills to offer.
Related: What do Retiring Boomers Like to do?
The benefits of volunteering
Besides being a benefit to our communities, volunteering brings all sorts of benefits to the retiree.
Offering your time and talents to support an organization can give structure to your days and that feel-good sense of achievement that you might miss once you’ve left the working world. You can explore your passions and learn new skills.
People who donate their time feel more socially connected. Volunteering with friends is a fun social activity, and volunteering on your own can be a great way to meet new people who share similar interests.
Numerous studies have shown that people who volunteer have increased life satisfaction and are rewarded with better physical health.
Things to consider
One of the most common mistakes newly retired folks make is overcommitment. It is very easy to say “yes” too many times and find yourself as stressed and pressed for time as you were before retirement. When you realize you bit off more than you can chew, you might feel a bit guilty for having to back out of something you agreed to do.
Understand your commitment level. Be very clear on how much time you want to spend on the giving back part of your life. You may not want to take on a whole lot of responsibility.
Instead of a long-term arrangement maybe you would rather help out at a one-time event with limited hours or something that has a definite start and end date such as a fundraiser, organizing a fun run your grandchild is part of, designing a website for a seniors’ centre, or building a bookshelf for a children’s reading room.
If you don’t want to get involved in a formal arrangement you can help out people in your neighbourhood shop for groceries, do minor home repairs or yard work, or walk a dog.
Know your limitations. Do you have the necessary skills to help the organization? What do you not want to do? For example, before volunteering with your local Food Bank know that the work may entail some heavy lifting and standing on concrete floors for several hours sorting food into portions. How will that work with your back?
The bottom line
Like other retirement decisions, volunteering takes a bit of thought, but it’s clear that many retirees choose this path. According to a Statistics Canada survey, around 40% of Canadians ages 55 – 74 volunteer.
Volunteering in retirement has an amazing mutual benefit. The organization receives free contributions from people with a lifetime of experience. The retirees get intellectual stimulation (beyond Sudoko puzzles), connection to social networks, enhanced health and happiness, and a sense of purpose (apart from lowering their golf handicap).
And with so many charities and non-profits in need of help, there’s no shortage of volunteer opportunities available for those willing to donate their time and efforts during retirement.
How often do you volunteer? What do you like to do? Please share your stories of volunteering and how you feel about it. We learn from each other.