With retirement comes freedom, an open calendar and sometimes a move to a new home. Those changes can bring boredom and isolation, particularly for older adults trying to adjust to a new community. For many retirees, volunteering is an antidote to these worries.
Whether your intent is to make new friends, add structure to your schedule or help out a good cause, becoming a volunteer enhances your well-being. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), adults who engage in social activities like volunteering live longer and are happier and less depressed. The increased physical activity associated with volunteer duties can also improve your overall health. Studies suggest volunteering may reduce stress and decrease the risk of health problems like dementia.
How to Give the Gift of Your Time
Even if you’re sold on the concept of volunteering, you may wonder how to find volunteer opportunities. Vineyard Senior Living offers the following tips:
1. Choose an issue
Think about an issue you feel strongly about like animal welfare, helping children or homelessness. Find a nonprofit organization in your area related to that cause and see if they need volunteers. Do you love art and culture? Volunteer with a theatre or museum. It’s a great way to gain free admission to shows or exhibits.
2. Share talents and skills
Retired adults have professional skills that nonprofits value. For example, those with management expertise can volunteer to mentor new entrepreneurs. Former teachers can tutor students. Use your know-how to help a nonprofit expand its services by serving on the board of directors. Or share activities you enjoy, such as cooking at a food kitchen or baking for a church fundraiser.
3. Test the fit
Before you commit to a regular schedule of volunteering for an organization, try a few short-term assignments. That will help you see if the organization and people you work with are a good fit. Try helping at an event or with a small activity requiring a limited time commitment. If the organization is poorly organized or you don’t enjoy it, move on to something else.
4. Ask a friend
Begin your research by asking friends about their volunteer activities. They may have insight into an activity you’d enjoy and whether the organization is a good fit. Serving coffee at church or planting a community garden is a lot more pleasant when you’re doing it with friends.
5. Have faith
According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS), volunteers work for religious organizations more than any other category of nonprofit. And yet faith-based organizations are always in need of volunteers. If you belong to a church, synagogue or other institution, ask how you can help.
6. Use online resources
An easy way to find volunteer opportunities is through one of the websites that match nonprofit organizations with potential volunteers. In most cases, you enter your ZIP code into the database and select the types of nonprofits you like. The websites then compile a list of choices in your area. If you’d rather help out remotely, check for opportunities to volunteer virtually. Here are some of the top sites for finding volunteer work.
- Even if you’re not sure what you want to do, VolunteerMatch can help. It has connected 15.2 million volunteers to organizations around the globe.
- All for Good. Points of Light, a leading organization dedicated to volunteer service, sponsors All for Good. The site pulls in opportunities from many websites like AARP and United Way to provide a comprehensive database of volunteer openings.
- Catchafire. Nonprofits that need help with professional services turn to Catchafire for assistance. If you are a professional willing to provide pro bono services such as accounting, branding or web design, this website lets you share your expertise. Most opportunities are remote, making it easy to donate your time without being limited to local organizations.
- AARP Create the Good. It makes sense that the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) hosts a volunteer matching website. After all, retired adults volunteer more hours than people of other age groups. The Create the Good database has a network of more than 200,000 people.
- United Way. As one of the nation’s oldest and most respected organizations, United Way emphasizes giving back to the community. Its focus is on areas of health, education and financial stability. Its volunteer matching site lets you filter opportunities, by location, nonprofit service category and skills needed.
- JustServe. With JustServe, you can find an activity supporting a faith-based nonprofit. You can also sign up for alerts regarding new volunteer opportunities.
How to give the gift of your time
If you’ve been wondering how to find a good volunteer opportunity, these tips show how to give the gift of your time. Start the process by considering your interests and goals. Then connect with local organizations. You’ll not only give back to your community, chances are, you will also make new friends and become healthier and happier.