You’re Finally Retired – Congratulations!
Now fast forward 13 months into the future. A year or so has passed since retirement. You’ve checked off a pile of activities from your bucket list – and are beginning to feel somewhat bored — perhaps even a bit gloomy. Why is that? Well, let me tell you. It’s because everyone needs to experience something meaningful in their lives. When we work in our chosen career, we feel useful (hopefully). Once that is gone, it is important to find some kind of replacement to fill the void. One way to instantly bring meaning and gratification is find senior volunteer opportunities.
What you’ll gain from donating your time and skills with community volunteer services
The benefits of volunteering are plentiful indeed! Finding neat places to volunteer can reap a plethora of benefits:
- Feel rewarded by helping others
- Enjoy a new challenge – get free training
- Keeps your mind sharp – promotes mental health
- increases self-esteem / self-image
- improves physically activity (keeps you out of the house more often)
- provides a valuable contribution to society
- meet new people that have things in common with you
- make new hang out friends – expand your social group
- fosters a real sense of appreciation for the little things in life
- learn new and exciting games and hobbies
- prevents isolation
- pursue your passions
- Gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling in your belly : )
Got any concerns with volunteering?
You may have some concerns about volunteering and no doubt each one of them is valid. Let’s address a few and see if they can be worked out.
The most common concern would probably be about personal accommodations (physical or otherwise). What you need to understand is that you are a valuable commodity. Let’s say you used to be a Nurse and are thinking of volunteering at the Information desk one day a week. But you are concerned about sitting in those non-mobile, heavy wooden chairs. Don’t even worry about that because they will gladly get you an ergonomic chair for you to sit in and feel more comfortable. Remember, they are getting free labor and the comfier you are, the longer you will stick around, right?!
Perhaps you have a back condition and it has been keeping you at home. There are some methods and tools that you can use to help your back in many cases, to help you get out of the house. Gentle stretching is always good to start. I find that there are lots of great back tools out there that will help you feel like a million bucks. I personally have a bunch of back massaging devices that I use regularly, and they make a huge difference to how I feel and live with less discomfort. If you aren’t familiar with these, check out some of the links below.
Back inverters– I don’t have one but I have heard they can help reduce back discomfort for people with spinal compression –that is -if you don’t mind being upside down for 5 minutes. That being said, check with your Doctor or Chiropractor to make sure you are ok to use these should you have a major spinal disorder. Apparently these can also improve circulation, mental clarity, and blood flow back to the brain (that last one is a huge bonus for me personally – hahaha)!
And if you just want to pound a certain knot at the base of your neck or shoulders partway through your shift, try a percussion massager. I have one and they feel amazing on the upper back muscles the knots will melt away.
Ok, so aside from that, the other concern would probably be scheduling and flexibility. Most Volunteer coordinators know you have a life outside of volunteering and will likely go out to bat for you if you need some last minute time or day off. We all have days where we have a scheduled commitment but really want to go to the Arts and Crafts Fair that is only on exactly during the time you are supposed to be volunteering. These organizations are used to accommodating people’s appointments and schedule. Senior Corps is the largest volunteer organization for older adults (55+) in the US. They offer a variety of volunteer programs to suit your needs, ranging from building to providing relief help to people recovering from natural disasters. Or spending quality time and assisting our elders with their housework a few times a week. If interested, be sure to check out their RSVP and Foster Grandparents programs. Senior Corps will work with you to match the time you wish to donate.
Don’t forget, you are providing a free service to them so it is within your rights to take a personal day if needed –just don’t do it all the time! Some might be more so than others, so if this is an issue, then ask them what their scheduling needs are and about their flexibility to find a replacement if you can’t come in one day.
Finding the perfect senior volunteer program for retirees
Are you asking yourself what you can do? Everyone has a unique set of skills and talents that they can draw from. To do this, write down what you are interested in or passionate about. What are your hobbies? What brings you joy? Do you like canning and pickling? Knitting? The choices are endless.
Now…for me… it’s all about the cats!!! Fat cats, grumpy cats, fluffy cats, disheveled alley cats, and of course mewy little kittens.
Do you also crave to pet and hold a warm, furry, purring kitty but aren’t allowed cats in your condo? If so, then a great place for you to spend some time would be at the SPCA or other cat shelter, petting, feeding and grooming the kitties. Insert ‘doggie’ into this equation if you are more of a dog person. The dog at these shelters (pounds) need love too, and walks! You could be the one thing that brings joy to their day, by taking them for a walk in the park. We take these liberties for granted. Helping to care for a needy animal can bring much joy and gratification to our lives.
If you know you want to volunteer but are feeling stuck, here are some suggestions:
Do you walk on the wild side? Did you know there are senior volunteer vacations in which one can travel the world, get tax-deductible airfare, and experience new cultures? There are a number of organizations, such as Discover Corps and Globe Aware, that offer this exciting kind of volunteer service for senior citizens.
My father worked as a film archivist before he retired. He is now donating some of his free time to the local library. Libraries do not make a lot of money, I often wonder how long they will last. I think that is so thoughtful of him to assist them with his shelf-reading classification skills.
Here is a list of other volunteer ideas you may wish to consider:
- A local community shelter / food kitchen (I like to volunteer here on Thanksgiving)
- Love gardening but don’t have one? Try your local community garden
- Enjoy nature trails and chopping wood –volunteers can help to create and groom new park trails
- Use your flower planting skills to beautify your town and compete against other municipalities, with Communities in Bloom
- Want free tickets to see ongoing plays? Volunteer as an usher at the local playhouse.
- How about free passes and t-shirts to outdoor concerts, local events, and cultural venues? Why pay when you can get in for free by volunteering as a ticket seller.
- If you have a favorite charity, they may have a thrift shop that relies on volunteers for support and income.
- Elderly Care homes –lots of volunteer opportunities there. My mother, for instance, enjoys being part of a cheery ukulele group that entertains the care home residents with their lively Hawaiian songs. This gives my mom a chance to practice her musical instrument outside her apartment building, so her neighbors can’t complain about the noise. It tickles my heart to see how her passion for the ukulele has grown, as well as her skills, and circle of friends : )
- Miss the vivacious energy of children? Try volunteering in helping children to read. Foster Grandparents is a volunteer service that helps children and teens with special needs learn to read or receive love and care.
- Lastly, many elders have lost the ability to cook, especially if they have Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis or dementia. Imagine that real, deep-seated feeling you’d get from knowing you are assisting a sweet frail, needy elderly lady or man in obtaining a hot, homemade meal. You may be all they have and look forward that day. I personally cannot imagine anything more meaningful and validating. What a wonderful way to instantly banish any retirement-related blues. Support a Meals on Wheels in your area – your heart will expand about 4 to 10 times its size – guaranteed!
Whatever you decide to do, know that your skills will be appreciated more than you will ever know.
Your donation of time, skills, talents and unique services are truly needed and valued! Volunteering is possibly the greatest contribution one can make to society. Without people like you, we would not have many people providing us necessary services that often can’t be filled with paid workers. Be proud.
Thank you for sharing your incredible self with society. You are a Superstar!