Volunteering can be a great way to spend some of your life after retirement. Taking time out to volunteer for a cause you believe in is gratifying, and creates the kind of structure you need to stay mentally and physically fit as a senior. If you're considering volunteering, ask yourself these five questions before you begin.
1. What cause do you want to help?
Are you interested in helping children, spending time with animals, teaching, or providing your services in some other way? There are a vast number of charities and organizations you can get involved with, so give yourself the freedom to explore your options.
If you're a pet lover, volunteer with your local animal shelter. Some shelters may need help with fundraising, while others may ask for people to stop by and play with cats or dogs for a while. If you have a fondness for animals, this is sure to bring you joy as well.
Or you can volunteer to help the Girl Scouts of America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Salvation Army, or any number of other worthy causes. If you're interested in volunteering, there's almost definitely an organization that needs your help. You can find a list of organizations with contact information here.
2. How much time can you devote?
Some seniors may want to volunteer 20 hours a week, while others would prefer just a few hours a month. Consider your daily schedule and when you would be able to carve out some time for your preferred charity or nonprofit.
If in doubt, start out with a smaller commitment and work up from there. Any help at all will be appreciated, so if you're worried you may get worn out from too much work, start by going to one event or dedicating a couple of hours at a time before diving all the way in.
3. Will you have to leave the house?
This won't be an issue for those without mobility limitations, but it's important to note that you can still volunteer for a cause even if you can't leave your home or assisted living facility.
For example, many organizations use phone banking to further their cause. You can use a call list at home and reach out to people to vote for your preferred political candidate, donate to a cause at the holidays or to raise money to rebuild a community hit by a natural disaster.
You can also look online at organizations like Help from Home, a nonprofit that connects users to charities that need volunteers. The best part is all of the actions listed on this site can be done from the comfort of your own home. Some activities include knitting blankets and clothes for those in need, signing petitions or taking part in email campaigns for change.
4. What skills and experience do you have?
When deciding on the kind of volunteer work you'd like to do, include an assessment of the skills you've learned throughout your life. If you were a teacher, a part-time tutoring opportunity may be right for you. If you have a green thumb, maybe your community has local gardens you could help care for. If you can speak another language, you can volunteer with an organization that helps teach English to immigrants, or to help provide people with a sense of community. If you're great with kids, you might want to help with a children's reading program at the library.
Or you can use your administrative and office skills by helping organizations keep their donor files straight, or put to use the skills you honed during countless business calls to get on the phone and ask others to volunteer and donate. There are plenty of opportunities for you to help in a way that makes the most sense for you.
5. Do you know anyone who'd like to join you?
Volunteering is an opportunity for you to do some good in your community, and it's also an opportunity to interact with others and improve your social life. So if you have any friends or know someone at your assisted living community who may be interested in working together for a cause, invite them along.
Nonprofits and charities often look for multiple volunteers at a time, so bringing a friend or family member along will help them, too. You can turn volunteering into a regular part of your life and expand your social circle at the same time. Make a day of it – stop by the animal shelter in the morning with a family member, then go out for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Breaking up your day with volunteering is an excellent way to give your life some much needed structure while giving back to the community.