Resources for Volunteering in Retirement
Written by: Daniel Gleich
Millions of retired people volunteer each year. In fact, retirees account for a quarter of all volunteers in the United States. They fulfill important roles in their community, including fundraising, distributing food to people experiencing food insecurity, building homes, maintaining parks, working with students, mentoring young people, running clothes closets, and serving as museum guides. Studies have shown that volunteering also helps individual retirees by keeping them engaged in meaningful work and providing them with social opportunities.
Isolation is a big problem for many retirees, as lots of people depend on their jobs for social interaction. It's estimated that almost 20% of people 55 and older can be categorized as isolated from society, meaning they have limited contact with family, friends, neighbors, and other members of the community.
- Isolation leads to higher rates of illness.
- Volunteering lets retirees interact regularly with other members of their community.
- It also gives retirees an ongoing purpose.
Improved Mental Acuity
Declining cognitive ability is a real concern that many retirees share. One way to prevent mental decline and avoid memory loss is by keeping active. Volunteering allows retirees to use skills built during their careers while also continuing to learn and grow other parts of their skill sets.
- One study found that about 70% of retirees who previously reported symptoms of depression saw improvement in their conditions after a year of volunteering.
- Regular contact with people is an important part of maintaining cognitive health.
- Feeling involved is also vital for the mental health of everyone, especially retirees.
Types of Volunteer Roles
There are many different kinds of volunteer roles available. Some retirees wish to use and build upon the skill sets they developed during their working years. Other people want to use their retirement years to learn new skills and try new things. The wealth of volunteer opportunities means each retiree can find a role that suits their talents and desires.
- Many different volunteer programs need mentors for students and young people.
- If you're interested in helping other seniors, you can work with initiatives ranging from helping with filling out tax forms to delivering meals.
- Retirees looking for something to do at home can find many programs that need help maintaining websites, doing data entry, or even acting as an online tutor.
Additional Resources for Volunteering in Retirement
- Senior Volunteers Reap Health Benefits: Seniors who volunteer have a lower rate of depression than seniors who don't volunteer in their communities.
- Volunteering in the United States: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on rates of volunteerism for the country as a whole and across subgroups.
- Make Giving Back Your Second Act: AmeriCorps Seniors is open to those 55 and older who wish to serve their communities.
- Volunteers-In-Parks: The National Park Service doesn't exclusively take senior citizens for their Volunteers-In-Parks program, but the program offers seniors a chance to use skills they've built over their lifetimes.
- Volunteering With Meals on Wheels: Many seniors volunteer with this program, which delivers hot meals to people's homes.
- Feeding America: Food banks across the country are always in need of volunteers.
- Canine Companions: Retirees who like dogs have a variety of options with this organization that trains service dogs.
- It's Never to Late to Volunteer: The Peace Corps actively recruits older people.
- Volunteer With Days for Girls: This organization has a variety of roles available.
- Habitat for Humanity: Former President Jimmy Carter is Habitat's highest-profile senior volunteer, but many retirees play an important part in fulfilling the organization's mission to provide affordable housing.
- Volunteering With the USO: The USO supports service members in a variety of ways, so there are many different volunteer opportunities for retired people.
- RSVP: For Individuals Age 55+: The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (or RSVP) has almost half a million volunteers ages 55 and up across the United States.
- How Volunteer Vacations Work: Volunteer vacations are travel experiences that are based around helping other people or organizations. There are volunteer vacation opportunities available both domestically and internationally.
- Where Older Workers Are Valued and Honored: Zoos, museums, and historical sites are eager for retirees to volunteer as docents.
- Volunteer at the Met: Even high-profile museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art recruit retirees who don't have previous museum experience. Local museums near you may also be looking for volunteers!
- Volunteering at Columbia State Historic Park: Local and state parks also need volunteers, and roles can range from working in a park store to helping with landscaping or serving as a park guide.
- Volunteer With San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Help Build a World Where All Life Thrives: If you like animals, you might find interesting and rewarding experiences at your nearest zoo.
- Healthy Aging: How Volunteering Helps: Volunteering is an excellent way for retirees to stay active and engaged after they stop working.
- Volunteer at the Los Angeles Public Library: Local libraries all over the country need volunteers to fulfill a variety of roles, ranging from data entry to hosting story time with kids.
- Connect With Grandparents and Seniors: PTAs and schools work with retired people to fulfill needs in the school community for mentors and reading coaches.
- Senior Volunteers Abroad: Looking to travel internationally while also volunteering? There are many programs that help seniors find safe traveling experiences that combine tourism with volunteering.
- Volunteer Opportunities for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees: Retiree-friendly volunteer opportunities from Atlanta to Nepal are searchable in this database.
- Find Volunteering Opportunities Near You: The United Way has volunteer opportunities available across the country.
- Red Cross Volunteer Oppurtunites: Retirees often staff blood drives and help with disaster relief.
- Volunteer With Ronald McDonald House: Ronald McDonald House offers places to stay for families whose children are in the hospital. Volunteers help run the houses and assist these families.
- Reach Out and Read: From serving as a reading coach to organizing a book drive, a variety of volunteer roles are available with this organization.
- The Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement: The White House Conference on Aging examined the benefits of retirees volunteering for both communities and individuals.