You’ve worked hard. Played a little—probably not enough. And now you’re ready for a new chapter but have no idea what you want to do.
Perhaps you’re seeking a new career. Possibly you want to travel. Maybe you wish to develop new skills and talents, or you have a strong desire to share the knowledge and skills you’ve accumulated over the years to help others.
Regardless of your previous jobs or career experiences, volunteering with an organization whose vision and purpose aligns with your personal mission and goals is worthy of consideration. Far from being just another obligation, volunteering can be an amazing opportunity to develop new talents, meet new people, discover new places, and experience opportunities that you never thought possible.
According to Kristin Pendleton, Senior Volunteer Recruitment Representative for the American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas, “You would be surprised by the variety of volunteering opportunities available, with nearly something for everyone. And we find that people over 50 are rich with energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge.”
Unsurprisingly, the Baby Boomer generation is revising the traditional view of retirement and reformulating the concept of aging, with many of us preferring to remain active and involved. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service regarding their Senior Corps Volunteers,
- 88% reported fewer feelings of isolation.
- 84% reported stable or improving health.
- 78% reporter fewer symptoms of isolation.
As Kristin Pendleton shared during our recent interview, volunteerism has been called “the new fountain of youth” because it offers several benefits. It
- produces a regular, mental pick-me-up,
- triggers the release of oxytocin, also referred to as the “cuddle hormone,”
- keeps us physically active,
- helps in the battle with dementia when coupled with regular exercise, and
- contributes to a healthier, happier life.
So, what makes people want to give back? Sometimes the reasons run deep.
- A woman loses her husband to Alzheimer’s disease and decides to volunteer her time and teach computer programming classes to underserved kids in her community.
- A retired teacher wants to continue sharing his love for learning and offers to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants in his neighborhood.
- A woman who has lived in the same large city all her life wants to expand her horizons, so she volunteers with a disaster relief agency to travel the country and help people outside of her state.
- A retired veteran wants to continue supporting the armed services and signs up to serve as a hospital volunteer and deliver emergency communications to military families.
For others, the desire to give back is all about maintaining social connections while contributing to causes in which they believe.
If you think you would like to volunteer, but feel uncertain about where to begin, consider the following questions as a starting point:
- What talents, skills and abilities would you like to continue building by offering them to others? What volunteer groups could use those talents, skills and abilities to further their missions?
- What activities would you like to explore that are entirely new for you? What non-profit organizations could offer you opportunities to explore those activities in support of their clients?
- To what extent are you interested in deepening your interests and passions? In finding meaning and value outside of yourself? What non-profit organizations share similar interests, passions and values and would love for you to join them?
- What specific groups of people in need would you most like to work with?
- Are you seeking a new career path? Volunteering is a great way to build apprenticeship.
Finding the right volunteer fit doesn’t mean following your previous career path. When our friend Kristin Pendleton talks with potential Red Cross volunteers, some of them discuss their previous careers and want to use those skill sets in their volunteer activities. Others quickly exclaim, “I never, ever want to do anything related to my past jobs again!”
Whether you seek adventure, long to expand your horizons, or want to continue growing and learning in your area of expertise, seek out volunteer opportunities that will allow you to achieve your own personal vision, mission and goals. In the process, you may just discover your own fountain of youth.