Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your passion for working or helping others will retire. Many people decide to give back some of their free time after retirement. There are countless opportunities to volunteer, whether it’s in a national park or in your neighborhood VvE.
Volunteering isn’t just rewarding and it’s about helping others. It’s good for you too! Don’t take our word for it, listen to the investigation. A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly lowered 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 kind of volunteering can bring to a career. It feels like a new career, and that’s what I’m most proud of.” Laura Barber has been volunteering at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, since 2016. As a patient and family counselor, she visits other patients and caregivers and provides support via email and phone calls. “I can choose projects that make the best use of my personal skills and are also things I enjoy and want to do, and I can really see that I’m making a difference,” Barber said.
She applied for the position after being encouraged by one of her husband’s doctors in Moffitt. She had to go through background checks and extensive interviews to make sure it was a good fit for her. Barber says finding the right fit is so important. “I highly recommend a retiree to find a purpose that fuels them with passion and energy; that’s the right one. I also recommend finding the right fit in terms of hours required and other commitments (if any).
“Volunteering often involves a financial commitment, so take a look at that as well. Ask lots of questions before jumping in because nothing is worse than jumping in with both feet and a lot of passion and regretting it later (been there, done that!). That regret could be not understanding the implied financial commitment or hours required or any number of things.
To volunteer with a medical organization such as a hospital, you may need to apply, attend a volunteer orientation session or training, and take a health screening test. When choosing a location, be sure to ask what kind of requirements are needed to volunteer.
2. National Park Service Volunteer Opportunities
If you love the 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 get involved — whether it’s outside in the elements, behind a desk, or next to a park worker. Some volunteer positions require certain skills or knowledge, but some simply require your willingness to give back!
You can also volunteer for service day projects. Before Earth Day, volunteers were needed for a National Park Clean-Up. People were asked to gather to collect trash in Indiana Dunes National Park. “Participating in the cleanup is a great way to be proud of your community, celebrate spring and enjoy the neighborhood national park,” volunteer program manager Jim Whitenack said in a press release.
Volunteers simply had to show up at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on April 22 and were assigned a cleanup location.
There are also benefits. You can get a free annual pass if you have 250 hours of service at a federal agency that participates in the Interagency Pass program. Please contact your volunteer coordinator for more information.
3. Disaster Relief
One of the most needed volunteer positions with the American Red Cross is the Disaster Action Team (DAT). Every day fires, storms and other disasters force people out of their homes and their lives. This is a great way to help more than 6,000 emergencies each year. You help by providing care and compassion, helping people and families with housing or clothing, and connecting them to long-term recovery services. The American Red Cross provides all the training you need. During this pandemic, volunteers will usually respond virtually, but larger responses may require on-site presence.
Becky McCorry, 68, had a 25-year career with the organization and decided when she retired to volunteer. “It’s 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. After working since I was 16 years old this would be the first time I didn’t to have going to work. So after reconnecting with family and friends as we got out of the pandemic, I knew I had to reconnect with something new and different in the world of the Red Cross.
“I’ve waited almost 6 months to fully jump in and volunteer and now I’m probably volunteering an average of 10-15 hours a week. From serving as a volunteer leadership partner to our vice president for disaster programs, taking classes, and now my immersion in learning about international services, my plate is filled daily. Our organization has so many volunteer opportunities: as a leader of others, as someone who works directly with the residents affected by a disaster, or even in a support role behind the scenes or remotely.”
McCorry says volunteering after retirement is important because she gets to know herself, meet new people and support others in need. “Try it! Find your passion or something that tugs at your heart. Buddy up and try something new. While you may have to ‘look around’ for what suits you, I guarantee it will ‘enrich your soul’.
You can also help with Blood Collection Support. It is another high priority within the organization. You can join a lifesaving team to help the blood collection teams in your community.
editors Note: Want to be inspired by a great story about activism, including international disaster relief? Check out the memoirs of Kinari Webb, MD, Guardians of the trees†
4. The humane society and animal shelter
We know that 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 in many different fields, including fundraising, policy change, and the Animal Rescue Team.
Local animal shelters are also a good place to volunteer. They need pet walkers, photographers, creative writers, groomers and kennel assistants.
Dan Antrim has been a volunteer dog walker for the Pinellas County Animal Services in Largo, Florida, for 3 years. “Volunteers can walk any dog in any way they choose, giving the dogs some exercise, learning socialization skills, getting used to walking on a leash, or learning one or two new commands.”
Antrim enjoys volunteering after retirement because he feels that he is valuable and has something to contribute. “You keep your mind active. You can become depressed if you often stay at home and watch the local/national news on your television. Your health improves and you reduce the risk of illness. You probably need a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Barbara Handley has been a volunteer with 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 retirement. “First of all, consider which areas you are passionate about. Also look at your abilities and strengths. Find what you love to do and you will surely succeed.”
So many of us spend time in our gardens, making our own landscaping look great. Why not help others do the same? In addition to volunteering time at a hospital, Laura Barber is a Florida Master Gardener Volunteer at the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Florida. She helps customers with their horticultural needs. Laura graduated from that year’s Master Gardener Volunteer class in the fall of 2013. Classes are held every 2 years in Hillsborough County.
“I am a lifelong gardener and always interested in learning more. The MGV program includes an annual continuing education requirement, so that was right up my alley. I especially enjoy helping our customers with vegetable and butterfly gardening.” She strongly recommends volunteering in this way after retirement: “In no particular order: To feel a sense of accomplishment; gain more knowledge; to sleep better at night; to meet new friends who share your ambitions; to realize that your gifts mean a lot and can help others!”
These are just some of the options out there. If finding the best way to give back is overwhelming, there are volunteer agencies, such as VolunteerMatch, that can match you with job opportunities based on your skills and background. It will match you with a cause that you are passionate about. You can work with a volunteer coordinator to find a role that fits your lifestyle and is fun!
Pro tip: Every volunteer we spoke to said you should pick something you’re passionate about. Choose something that expands on a task or hobby and consider your abilities and strengths. Remember that volunteering should be rewarding.
Handley had this advice to start with: “Just do it! You will be amazed at how satisfying it is. You will probably end up saying you got back more than you gave!”