Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your passion for working or helping others retired, too. Many people decide to give some of their free time back after retirement. There are countless opportunities to volunteer whether it’s at a national park or your neighborhood HOA.
Volunteering isn’t just rewarding and about helping others. It’s good for you, too! Don’t take our word for it, listen to the research. A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered regularly decreased their blood pressure by 40 percent.
Ready to find the right position for you? Here are five volunteer opportunities for retirees.
1. Volunteering For Medical Organizations
“I want others to know how much joy and satisfaction the right type of volunteer work can bring after a career. It feels like a new career, and one of which I’m most proud.” Laura Barber has been volunteering at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, since 2016. As a patient and family advisor, she peer-visits with other patients and caregivers and offers support via email and telephone calls. “I can choose projects that make the best use of my personal skill sets and also are things I enjoy and want to do, and I can truly see I’m making a difference,” said Barber.
She applied for the position after encouragement from one of her husband’s physicians at Moffitt. She had to go through a background check and extensive interviews to ensure it was a good fit. Barber says finding the right fit is so important. “I highly recommend a retiree find a cause that fuels them with passion and energy; that’s then the right one. I also recommend finding the right fit in terms of required hours and other commitments (if any).
“Often, volunteering implies a monetary commitment, so check that out as well. Ask a lot of questions before jumping in, because nothing’s worse than wholeheartedly leaping in with both feet and a ton of passion, and then regretting it later (been there, done that!). That regret could be not understanding the implied financial commitment or hours required or a number of things.”
If you’d like to volunteer at a medical organization like a hospital, you may have to fill out an application, attend a volunteer orientation session or training, and complete a health screening test. When you choose a location be sure to ask what kinds of requirements are needed to become a volunteer.
2. National Park Service Volunteer Opportunities
If you love the great outdoors, you can make a huge impact by volunteering for national parks and communities across the country through the National Park Service’s Volunteers-In-Parks program. There are so many ways to be involved — whether it’s out in the elements, behind a desk, or alongside a park employee. Some volunteer positions require certain skills or knowledge, but some just require your willingness to give back!
You can also volunteer for service day projects. For Earth Day, volunteers were needed for a National Park Clean-Up. People were asked to come together to collect trash in the Indiana Dunes National Park. “Participating in the cleanup is a great way to take pride in your community, celebrate the spring, and enjoy your neighborhood national park,” said volunteer program manager Jim Whitenack in a news release.
Volunteers just had to show up at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on April 22 and were assigned a cleanup location.
There are perks as well. You can get a free annual pass if you have 250 service hours with a federal agency that participates in the Interagency Pass Program. You’ll need to coordinate with your volunteer coordinator for more information.
3. Disaster Relief
One of the top-needed volunteer positions at the American Red Cross is the Disaster Action Team (DAT). Every day, fires, storms, and other disasters force people from their homes and their lives. This is a great way to help over 6,000 emergencies every year. You’ll help by offering care and compassion, helping people and families get housing or clothing, and connecting them with long-term recovery services. The American Red Cross supplies all the training you will need. During this pandemic, volunteers will mostly respond virtually, but for larger responses, an on-scene presence may be necessary.
68-year-old Becky McCorry had a 25-year career with the organization, then decided to volunteer when she retired. “It is part of my ‘blood’ – No pun intended!” said McCorry, who is now with the International Movement and serving in other countries. “For me, it keeps my mind charged up. After working since I was 16 years old, this would be the first time I did not have to go to work. So after reconnecting with family and friends as we came out of the pandemic, I knew I needed to get reconnected with something new and different in the world of Red Cross.
“I waited for almost 6 months to totally jump in and volunteer and now I probably volunteer on an average of 10-15 hours per week. From serving as a leadership volunteer partner to our Vice President for Disaster Programs, taking classes and now my immersion into learning about International Services my plate is full on a daily basis. Our organization has so many opportunities to volunteer: as a leader of others, as someone who works directly with the residents impacted by disaster, or even in support function behind the scenes or remotely.”
McCorry says volunteering in retirement is important because she learns about herself, meets new people, and supports others in need. “Try it! Find your passion or something that tugs at your heart. Buddy up and try something new. While you may need to ‘shop around’ for what fits you — I guarantee it will ‘enrich your soul.'”
You can also help with Blood Collection Support. It’s another high-priority position within the organization. You can join a lifesaving team to help support blood collection teams in your community.
Editor’s Note: Want to be inspired by an amazing story of activism that includes international disaster response? Check out Kinari Webb, M.D.’s memoir, Guardians of the Trees.
4. The Humane Society And Animal Shelters
We know many of you are animal lovers. Our pets mean so much to us, so why not help save a life? The Humane Society has volunteer opportunities in every state within many different areas including fundraising, policy change, and the Animal Rescue Team.
Local animal shelters are a good place to volunteer as well. They’re in need of animal walkers, photographers, creative writers, pet groomers, and kennel assistants.
Dan Antrim has been volunteering as a dog walker for the Pinellas County Animal Services in Largo, Florida for 3 years. “Volunteers are able to walk each dog in a manner that they choose that will help the dogs to get some exercise, learn socialization skills, become accustomed to walking on a leash, or learn one or two new commands.”
Antrim likes volunteering in retirement because he feels like he has value and something to contribute. “You will keep your mind active. You can become depressed if you frequently stay home watching the local/national news on your television. Your health will improve and you will reduce your chances of illness. You probably need a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Barbara Handley has been a volunteer at Pinellas County Animal Services for about a year. She says “giving back” is a positive and rewarding way to fill the free time available after retiring. “First of all, consider what areas you feel passionate about. Then also consider your abilities and strengths. Find what you love doing and you will surely succeed.”
So many of us spend time in our gardens, making our own landscaping look amazing. Why not help others do the same thing? Laura Barber doesn’t just spend time volunteering at a hospital, she’s also a Florida Master Gardener Volunteer in the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Florida. She helps customers with their horticulture needs. Laura graduated in the fall of 2013 from that year’s Master Gardener Volunteer class. Classes are held every 2 years in Hillsborough County.
“I have been a lifelong gardener and am always interested in learning more. The MGV program includes a yearly requirement for continuing education, so that was right down my alley. I especially enjoy helping our customers with vegetable and butterfly gardening.” She highly recommends volunteering in retirement this way: “In no particular order: To feel a sense of accomplishment; to gain more knowledge; to sleep better at night; to meet new friends who share your aspirations; to realize your gifts mean a lot and can help others!”
These are just a few of the opportunities out there. If finding the best way to give back feels overwhelming, there are volunteer agencies, like VolunteerMatch, that can connect you with open positions based on your skills and background. It will match you with a cause you’re passionate about. You can work with a volunteer coordinator to find a role that fits your lifestyle and is fun!
Pro Tip: Each volunteer we talked to said to pick something you’re passionate about. Choose something that expands on a task or a hobby and consider your abilities and strengths. Remember, volunteering is supposed to be rewarding.
Handley had this piece of advice to get started: “Just do it! You will be amazed at how fulfilling it is. You will probably end up saying that you got back more than what you gave!”
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