Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your passion for working or helping others is also retiring. Many people decide to give some of their free time back after retirement. There are many opportunities to volunteer be it in a national park or in your HOA neighborhood.
Volunteering isn’t just about rewarding and helping others. This is 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 voluntarily regularly lowered their blood pressure by 40 percent.
Ready to find the right position for you? Here are five volunteer opportunities for retirees.
1. Volunteer For Medical Organizations
“I want others to know how much joy and satisfaction the right kind of volunteer work can bring after a career. It feels like a new career, and one I’m most proud of.” Laura Barber has been a volunteer at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, since 2016. As a patient and family counselor, she visits other patients and caregivers and offers support via email and phone calls. “I can choose projects that make the best use of my personal skills as well as the things I love and want to do, and I can really see that I make a difference,” says Barber.
She applied for the position after getting encouragement from one of her husband’s doctors at Moffitt. He had to go through extensive background checks and interviews to make sure it was a good fit. Barber says finding the right match is very important. “I highly recommend retirees to find a purpose that drives them with passion and energy; then that’s right. I also recommend finding the right match in terms of hours required and other commitments (if any).
“Often, volunteering implies a financial commitment, so check that too. Ask lots of questions before jumping in, because there’s nothing worse than jumping with all your heart with both feet and a ton of passion, and then regretting it later (already been there, did that!). The regret could be not understanding the implied financial commitment or the hours required or some things.”
If you wish to volunteer at a medical organization such as a hospital, you may have to fill out applications, attend volunteer orientation sessions or training, and complete medical examinations. When you choose a location be sure to ask what the requirements are to become a volunteer.
2. National Park Service Volunteer Opportunity
If you love the great outdoors, you can make a big impact by volunteering for national parks and communities across the country through the National Park Service’s Volunteer-In-Parks program. There are many ways to get involved — whether it’s outside, behind a desk, or next to 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 a service day project. For Earth Day, volunteers are needed for the National Park Cleanup. People have been asked to gather to collect trash in Indiana Dunes National Park. “Participating in a cleanup is a great way to be proud of your community, celebrate spring, and enjoy your neighborhood’s national parks,” said volunteer program manager Jim Whitenack in a news release.
Volunteers just showed up at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on April 22 and were assigned to the cleanup site.
There are perks too. You can get a free annual pass if you have 250 hours of service with a federal agency participating in the Interagency Pass Program. You should coordinate with your volunteer coordinator for more information.
3. Disaster Management
One of the most 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 lives. This is a great way to help with more than 6,000 emergencies every year. You will help by offering care and affection, helping people and families find housing or clothing, and connecting them with long-term recovery services. The American Red Cross provides all the training you need. During this pandemic, most volunteers will respond virtually, but for a larger response, on-site presence may be required.
68-year-old Becky McCorry had a 25-year career with the organization, then decided to volunteer when she retired. “That is part of my ‘blood’ – No pun intended!” said McCorry, who now joins the International Movement and serves in other countries. “For me, it keeps my mind filled. After working since I was 16 years old, this will be the first time I don’t have to go to work. So after reconnecting with family and friends as we came out of the pandemic, I knew I needed to reconnect with something new and different in the Red Cross world.
“I waited almost 6 months to actually jump in and volunteer and now I’m probably volunteering 10-15 hours per week on average. From serving as a volunteer leadership partner to our Vice President for the Disaster Program, taking classes, and now my experience of learning about International Service, my plate is full every day. Our organization has so many opportunities to volunteer: as a leader of others, as someone who works directly with disaster-affected populations, or even in a behind-the-scenes or remote support function.”
McCorry says volunteering in retirement is important because he’s learning about himself, meeting new people, and supporting others in need. “Try it! Find your passion or something that catches your eye. Buddy up and try something new. While you may need to ‘shop around’ for what works for you — I guarantee it will ‘enrich your soul.’”
You can also help with Blood Draw Support. This is another high priority position in the organization. You can join a rescue team to help support the blood collection team in your community.
courtesy of editor Note: Want to be inspired by a story of extraordinary activism that includes international disaster response? See Kinari Webb, MD’s memoir, Tree Keeper.
4. Humane Society And Animal Sanctuary
We know many of you are animal lovers. Our pets mean so much to us, so why not help save lives? The Humane Society has volunteer opportunities in every state in areas including fundraising, policy change, and Animal Rescue Teams.
Local animal shelters are also good places to volunteer. They need animal walkers, photographers, creative writers, pet groomers, and kennel assistants.
Dan Antrim has been volunteering as a dog walker for Pinellas County Animal Services in Largo, Florida for 3 years. “Volunteers can walk each dog in a way they choose that will help the dog to exercise, learn socialization skills, become accustomed to walking on a leash, or learn a new command or two.”
Antrim likes to volunteer in retirement because he feels he has value and something to contribute. “You will keep your mind active. You can become depressed if you often stay home watching the local/national news on your television. Your health will improve and you will reduce your chances of illness. You may 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. He says “giving back” is a positive and rewarding way to fill the free time available after retirement. “First of all, consider what field you are passionate about. Then also consider your abilities and strengths. Find what you love and you will definitely succeed.”
So many of us spend time in our gardens, making our own landscaping look stunning. Why not help others do the same? Laura Barber not only spends time volunteering at the hospital, she’s also a Volunteer Florida Gardener at the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Florida. She helps customers with their horticultural 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 gardener my whole life and have always been interested in learning more. The MGV program includes an annual requirement for continuing education, so that’s right in front of me. I really enjoy helping our customers with vegetable and butterfly gardening.” He highly recommends volunteering in retirement this way: “In no particular order: To feel accomplished; to gain more knowledge; sleep better at night; to meet new friends who share your aspirations; to realize your gift means 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, such as VolunteerMatch, who can connect you with open positions based on your skills and background. It will match you with your preferred destination. You can work with a volunteer coordinator to find a role that fits your lifestyle and is fun!
Pro Tips: Every volunteer we spoke to said to pick something you like. Pick something that thrives on a task or hobby and consider your abilities and strengths. Remember, volunteering should be rewarding.
Handley had this piece of advice to get you started: “Just do it! You’ll be amazed how satisfying it is. You might end up saying you got more than you gave!