With the prospect of having some time to spare, retirement provides an opportunity to give back to the causes you support through volunteer work. As more nonprofit groups face cuts in government funding and reduced private donations, volunteering is a valuable resource that retirees are in a unique position to offer.
Whether you already have an organization in mind, or are looking for new prospects, volunteering in some capacity can be both enjoyable and fulfilling. It’s also a great way to stay engaged with a community and meet new people.

Volunteering: Christine & David's story

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Retirement has exceeded my expectations. I didn't expect that our lives would be so busy. We would be so engaged with so many different things.

We're involved in the Academy of Lifelong Learning, where we're giving courses. I've done History of Science, the Universe, Hubble Telescope, Italian Renaissance Art, and Treasures of the Louvre.

I'm also involved in the Academy, I'm the president this year. It's a group of a thousand retired people who are volunteers and teach classes and attend classes.

We're doing things sort of outside of the box, outside of what we did in our careers. Like, teaching an art class, teaching a science class. Going to Italy on our own. We're just having a blast.

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Some ideas for volunteering

To find some good volunteering options based on your preferences, check out databases such as Idealist or VolunteerMatch . Or consider one or a few of the below ideas.
  • Working with children: You can help children in a variety of ways, from volunteering at a children’s hospital to tutoring or reading at a local school. You can also join a larger volunteer organization such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation or StandUp for Kids .
  • Helping seniors: There are also seniors in need that could use your help. Meals on Wheels is an organization aimed to prevent hunger among the elderly population and is a popular choice among retirees. You can also become a part of the AARP Foundation and contribute help to seniors in one of four priority areas: hunger, income, housing and isolation.
  • Disaster relief: If you have a medical background, you can leverage your experiences helping victims of natural disasters through the Red Cross or the Citizen Corps .
  • Animal shelters: Local shelters often need help caring for animals or rescuing pets in times of emergency. You may also enjoy becoming a “foster parent” and temporarily looking after animals in your home until they can be adopted. Look into volunteering opportunities at the Animal Humane Society or PAWS .1
  • Other ideas: What are your skills and interests? You could offer free art lessons to students, help out at your alma mater’s admissions or alumni offices, or offer pro bono consulting services to companies in your former field.

Volunteering opportunities with perks

While the aim of volunteering is to help others in need, a slew of volunteering activities have added benefits and perks included. Take a look at some examples below.
  • Film and music festivals: Volunteering at film or music festivals often come with free passes. You may even get backstage privileges or free swag and souvenirs. For available opportunities, visit FestivalTrek or Music Festival Junkies .
  • Theater, concerts, museums and conventions: Becoming an usher at a local theater or music hall or a docent at a favorite museum can lead to free or discounted tickets. And volunteering a few hours a day at an academic conference of interest will likely score you tickets to events as well as allow you to network with other people in your field or area of interest.
  • Volunteer vacations and abroad opportunities: Traveling while volunteering can allow you to see the world while also helping others.  For more information, check out two popular trip providers, Road Scholars and Global Volunteers .3
  • Living with the Peace Corps: Retirement and the Peace Corps may seem an unlikely connection, but many seniors do volunteer with this organization. In fact, 7% of volunteers are 50 or older. Although the typical time commitment is 27 months, the Peace Corps recently created shorter programs with three- to 12-month trips. During a deployment, travel, living and health expenses are covered.4
  • Presidential awards: For as little as 100 volunteer hours a year, you can earn a President’s Volunteer Service Award . At the very least, you’ll receive a certificate and a signed letter from the President acknowledging your service.
It’s likely that volunteering will lead to meeting new friends and expanding your social circle. But according to The Corporation for National Service, volunteering also has mental and physical health benefits including lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, decreased rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations.6  With all of the inherent benefits and perks, volunteering may be something you want to get involved in even before officially retiring.
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2 Bureau of Labor Statistics.  February 25, 2015.  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm
3 Volunteering in Retirement: How to Get Great Freebies, Next Avenue, 8/19/2015, http://www.nextavenue.org/volunteering-retirement-how-get-great-freebies/
4 Rotary and Peace Corps Find Renewed Relevance with Older Volunteers  March 14, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/14/your-money/rotary-and-peace-corps-find-renewed-relevance-with-older-volunteers.html?_r=0
5 Evidence mounting that older adults who volunteer are happier, healthier,  August 29, 2014 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140829135448.htm
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