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Volunteering during retirement

The image of retired life has come a long way from that of a white-haired couple holding hands on reclining patio chairs. With Canadians generally living longer,1 retirement is becoming a more active phase of life. 

Your retirement gives you the opportunity to dedicate your time to causes and interests that are meaningful to you, but that may have had to take a backseat to your career or family in the past.

Retired volunteers are a vital asset to almost all charitable organizations. Retirees bring their energy, knowledge, skills and life experience to the table, and can also donate their time during weekdays when other volunteers are at work or in school.

However, the charitable organizations and those they support are not the only ones who will benefit from your volunteered hours – you’ll benefit as well. Recent studies have found that volunteering is good for your mental health, specifically for older adults.Another study by the University of Calgary found that volunteering in your senior years can significantly reduce the risk of dementia.3

If you’re excited to volunteer, but don’t know where to start, you should consider what your skills and interests are. Then think about how you can turn these into volunteer opportunities.

For example, if you’re skilled with tools or woodworking, you might consider volunteering for an organization that constructs furniture and housing for those in need. If you’ve always had a knack for knitting or sewing you might consider knitting hats for premature infants, or sewing blankets for the homeless. The opportunities to give back are endless.

Here are a few more suggestions for the types of volunteering you can become involved with during your retirement:

  • Cataloging, organizing, collecting or delivering items for a local food bank

  • Guiding tours for historical sites, museums or botanical gardens

  • Fostering a rescue animal, or training a service dog

  • Fundraising and campaigning for a cause that is meaningful to you

  • Visiting homebound seniors and helping them live independently

  • Tutoring or mentoring at-risk youth

  • Caring for animals in a local animal shelter

  • Providing administrative, accounting, communications, marketing or management support for smaller non-profit organizations

If you’re planning on travelling during your retirement you can look for service learning experiences that give you the opportunity to volunteer abroad. These experiences allow you to donate your time in various parts of the world and support a cause that is meaningful to you, while learning about other cultures and experiencing different ways of life.

Depending on your interests, capabilities and availability you can consider:

  • Teaching English as a second language

  • Volunteering with disaster relief initiatives

  • Building or repairing homes and water sanitation systems

  • Rehabilitating animals in wildlife conservation areas

  • Assisting in the conservation of natural ecosystems

  • Teaching business skills to micro-enterprise entrepreneurs

  • Contributing to sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives

Whatever your personal interests and skills are, there is guaranteed to be a volunteer position out there that suits you. 

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