Volunteering in Retirement

After retirement, many people enjoy the freedom to set their own schedule and choose activities that are meaningful to them. Some go back to school to further their education, some pick up an old hobby or cultivate a new one, some travel, and some do all these. However, many retirees find they miss the social interactions, sense of purpose, and productivity they had when working.

This is why volunteering is popular among retirees and older adults. More than 20% of older Americans engage in some form of volunteering. Volunteerism is shown to increase life satisfaction.

If you’d like to volunteer in your retirement years, there’s no shortage of opportunities. This post will describe the benefits to retirees of volunteerism and provide some suggestions to get started.

Benefits of Volunteering

A health study that included nearly 13,000 participants found older adults who did volunteer work for at least 100 hours per year, or around two hours per week, had a lower risk of mortality, lower risk of losing mobility and physical functioning, got more physical exercise, and had greater optimism and sense of purpose.

Another study found that volunteerism can help prevent social isolation, a significant mortality risk for older adults, and help with psychological health. Volunteers also maintain their sense of productivity and identity that many lose when they leave the professional workforce.

How to Volunteer

There are many types of volunteerism, from mentoring a younger person to working with a worldwide charitable organization. When you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity or position, the organization and the work you’ll be doing must align with your values. It’s also crucial not to do anything to endanger your health and well-being.

Volunteering is an excellent way to capitalize on your existing skills and cultivate new ones. If you like to knit, help build homes, or repair computers, or you’ve always wanted to learn these skills, volunteering might be perfect for you.

Choosing an Opportunity

But when choosing a volunteer position or opportunity, you’ll want to ensure it’s legitimate and a good fit for you. Consider moving on if it doesn’t seem aboveboard or the organization isn’t entirely forthcoming with information. Volunteering can help you remain productive, but you don’t want to be treated as free labor or overworked. You are retired, after all.

When choosing an organization, consider the organization and the position. Make sure the organization is legitimate. If it’s a nonprofit, review the 501(c)(3) information and make sure it’s in good standing. If it’s a larger organization, check for ratings on sites like CharityWatch and Charity Navigator. Browse the organization’s website and get a feel for the organization and the work the staff and volunteers do. If possible, check some reviews from employees and volunteers and speak with the staff.

Also, make sure the opportunity fits your schedule and find out how often and how long you will be committed to work there.

Popular Organizations

The United Way, VolunteerMatch, and AARP’s Create the Good are places to start looking for volunteer positions in your area. Additionally, here are some agencies that are often in need of volunteers:

AmeriCorps Seniors

AmeriCorps Seniors has volunteer opportunities for people age 55 and over. You can choose from various positions, from teaching a child to read to helping families recover from a natural disaster. Over 140,000 volunteers are working with AmeriCorps Seniors.

Food Banks

Your local food bank may need volunteers to work a shift each week, helping to select and box up food donations from supermarkets. It’s a way to help those in need in your community while getting some physical activity, and you can volunteer as much or as little as your schedule permits.

Food Delivery

Meals on Wheels delivers meals to homebound older adults in many communities nationwide. There are over 5,000 Meals on Wheels chapters and two million volunteers.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters

These are rewarding opportunities to mentor and encourage children and youth in your community. A similar program is Foster Grandparents. AmeriCorps has many foster grandparent programs. Some churches also run foster grandparent and related programs. Sites like Eldera enable you to mentor a child online.

Parks and Community Gardens

Your local, state, or national park may need volunteers. Some positions require training or experience, while others are open to anyone. You can be a tour guide or campground host or build trails and remove invasive plant species.

If you have a green thumb or are interested in learning to garden, your local community garden might be able to use an extra pair of hands. You could pack and plant seeds, build garden beds, or work behind the scenes in operations or logistics.


Many retirees would like to share their knowledge with others, and a good way is by teaching. You can work with children as a classroom aide, tutor students in specific subjects, or teach online courses. You can also provide career advice to high school students online through CareerVillage.

These are just a few of the popular volunteer options available. There are many other ways to get involved and stay productive. Volunteering in retirement is a great way to help your community while you help yourself.

We hope you found this post, Benefits of Volunteering in Retirement useful. Be sure to check out our post, Retirement: The Perfect Time to Embrace Wellness for more great information.

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