11 Meaningful Ways Seniors can Volunteer in 2023
Stepping into retirement is the beginning of the next phase of your life. After years of meeting personal and professional obligations, you can now relax and focus only on the activities that truly matter to you. If volunteering is one such activity that you’ve always wanted to pursue but never could make time for, now is a perfect moment. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Help out at a local hospital
The experience of being in a hospital or hospice can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing for some individuals and their families. They may need help and support that the medical staff are unable to provide since they are overworked. This is where you can step in as a volunteer. You can offer an empathetic and humane connection to make their stay more bearable. One of the best ways you can help them is by addressing their immediate needs such as providing home-cooked meals, clothes, or sourcing medical supplies. You can also contribute by
- Tutoring children and young adults missing out on school or college.
- Narrating stories or reading books to children as well as other older adults in the hospital.
- Offering to monitor playrooms and play areas in the pediatric ward.
- Giving companionship to older patients who are under palliative care.
In case you are unable to find volunteer work in your local nursing home or medical center, you can connect with nonprofit organizations specializing in healthcare and allied services such as March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House Charities, American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish Foundation, etc..
Support local schools
A teacher never really retires in the true sense. If you are one, you probably relate quite well to this. After all, you would still have so much knowledge and wisdom to impart. So, consider continuing your passion for teaching by volunteering at your local school or community college as they often need extra assistance to help their students. Here, you can volunteer as a tutor for your expert subject areas, followed by offering help and support for several other activities such as
- Assisting teachers in their classrooms
- Offering to chaperone field trips
- Meeting students for lunch or other activities
If your local schools and colleges do not have any current need for volunteers, you can always check out other options, such as AARP’s Experience Corps or Eldera. They will connect you with representatives for retired senior volunteer programs through which you can take up any number of tutoring or mentoring activities based on your time and convenience.
Work with humane societies or animal shelters
Several studies have shown having a pet improves heart health and helps cope better with stress. So, if the idea of being around animals makes you happy, then volunteering at an animal shelter should definitely be on your list.
To work with animal shelters, you can connect with several organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States, National Humane Society, or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, that have voluntary work for retirees. Through them, you get the chance to take care of rescued animals. You can bathe and feed them, tend to their injuries, play with them, and clean up the space where they are placed. You also have the choice of working as a foster parent for homeless cats, dogs, bunnies, or other pets until they find a permanent home. On the other hand, if organizing events is your forte, you can offer to help the organization by setting up fundraisers and adoption events.
Participate in community gardening
Perhaps tending to plants has been your source of joy for all these years. Then take your love for gardening to the next level by volunteering at your local community garden. These gardens are a great urban concept where people who live in the same locality come together to plant and grow everything from vegetables to flowers. By being part of such spaces, you not only get to spend quality time but also share your expertise and knowledge of growing plants with the younger members of your community.
However, if you are worried that you don’t possess the proverbial green thumb, consider this a good opportunity to learn something new. Depending on your comfort level, you could choose to take on one or more of these responsibilities.
- Seed packing: You can assist in packing seeds from bulk containers into seed packets. Most community gardens have their own seed-packing schedule that generally occurs during the pre-season months of January and February.
- Building tomato cages: Many community gardens will provide you with all the materials needed to build these cages, which are useful not only to grow tomatoes but also other plants such as cucumbers, peas, pole beans, or sweet potato vines. Similar to seed packing, this activity also occurs during only specific months.
- General community garden maintenance: Occasionally, community gardens have ongoing maintenance projects where they require assistance for various jobs. These may include cutting and clearing brush, removing debris, removing weeds, etc.
- Clean and wrap water boxes: Some community gardens use water boxes to trap rainwater and use it for irrigation. You can offer to help clean and insulate these boxes.
Finding volunteer opportunities for seniors at local community gardens is easy since many cities have community garden programs. For example, if you are in Plano, TX, Live Green in Plano Volunteer Program is a popular program you can look out for. Or, if you are located in Alpharetta, GA, contact Alpharetta’s Community Agriculture Program or Alpharetta Community Garden. Similarly, if you live in Montgomery, AL, you can sign up with the Montgomery Parks Community Gardens Program.
Provide help to veterans, troops, and their families
For years, you have seen veterans and troops sacrifice a lot to serve the country. All this time, you must have thought of lending a helping hand to them in tangible ways. Now that you have time post-retirement, you can volunteer to make life easier for them and their families. Here are a few organizations to contact if you are looking for such opportunities. These organizations have been working to provide assistance to the U.S. military servicemen and women for the past several decades.
- United Services Organization (USO): To provide assistance and facilities, the USO requires volunteers all the time. You can enroll to help out with several tasks, such as greeting the troops when they return from overseas tours, making coffee in USO offices, or providing warm meals and blankets to military personnel on their airport layovers.
- Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service Program (VAVS): The VAVS often has opportunities for seniors who are willing to help homeless veterans. You can also work to provide support by building and maintaining tributes and shrines through the National Cemetery Administration.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV): The DAV has programs in place to help disabled veterans and their families with disability assistance, job programs, and VA pensions. They are open to having extra help from those who can provide assistance at Veterans Affairs hospitals to provide companionship or support to veterans’ families.
- Hire Heroes USA: The goal of Hire Heroes USA is to support veterans by training them for work after their military service. You can sign up to assist with mock interviews and career counseling or help with fundraising and outreach programs for veterans and their spouses.
Offer help at a food bank or soup kitchen
Soup kitchens and food banks aim to provide nutritious and wholesome meals to the underprivileged, where the latter provides such meals, usually for free or at low prices. These organizations run solely on the generosity of volunteers who are willing to give their time in helping out with several day-to-day activities such as menu selection, meal preparation, packing meals, and food inventory maintenance. They also need help with organizing occasional fundraisers and nutrition awareness drives. So, if this is something that interests you, you can register with charitable organizations such as Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, and Second Harvest Heartland.
Build affordable housing
When you have spent years saving up and building your home, you know what a challenging job it is. Furthermore, maintaining a house is not an easy task either, with innumerable repairs to be fixed over the years. However, despite all the hard times, you have a place you call your own. If you would like to share this joy with someone less privileged, go on and participate in programs that are involved in building affordable housing. To do this, you can get in touch with several organizations and charities helping families build and renovate their homes.
Some of the most well-known nonprofits that work in this domain are Habitat for Humanity, Breaking Ground, and Volunteers for America. All of them have centers all over the country. Furthermore, you can connect with local groups that facilitate volunteer work involving essential repair work for low-income families in your area.
Join foster grandparents programs
One of the privileges of being a senior is having a great deal of lived experience, from the worst of times to the best ones. Moreover, having gone through the major milestones of your life, you have learned how to deal with any curve balls the world throws at you. Imagine sharing all these crucial skills and experiences with a young person whose life can turn around with your help. This is what working as a foster grandparent can be like. You can contribute in several ways, such as:
- Lending a hand in educating and caring for kids in your local area
- Being a mentor and offering guidance to teenagers
- Providing one-on-one support to children with special needs by helping them with their academic, social, or emotional development
- Mentoring young mothers
- Assisting in the care of premature infants or children with disabilities
If you are interested in such volunteer activities, contact your local government body. Additionally, you can connect with AmeriCorps, the independent federal agency for volunteerism and community service. They have partners all across the U.S. for foster grandparents’ programs.
Participate in RSVP Programs
With so many options for volunteering, you are probably still unsure of where your interests are. What helps in such situations is to look for formal volunteer organizations such as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs or RSVP that offer an umbrella of activities for seniors. According to an AmeriCorps survey, nearly 22.7% of older adults had participated in formal volunteering.
Formal volunteering means that you work through non-profit organizations and programs such as the RSVP. It is a government-funded initiative that gives grants to qualified organizations and agencies that offer community service programs for senior citizens. So you get the chance to delve into several activities as you explore what appeals to you more.
- Educational programs: Through these programs, you can choose to mentor the youth in your area and teach them essential life skills such as balancing school and work and maintaining successful social relationships. Also, you get the chance to provide support for math and reading literacy to young learners.
- Senior wellness: If you are looking for volunteer activities with the elderly from low-income and vulnerable groups, opt for these programs at RSVP. Through these, you will get to provide assistance and resources to seniors to enable them to live independently.
- Medicare counseling: Through this program, you become a state-trained Medicare Counselor to offer other seniors information on Medicare options, coverage, and other assistance programs, where RSVP will provide all the training.
- Meal Delivery: RSVP has several meal delivery programs through which you can choose to provide warm and nutritious meals to vulnerable and underprivileged communities.
Seek volunteer opportunities at United Way
Another great organization to check out is United Way. Did you know they are one of the largest privately-funded global nonprofits that have been active in almost 95% of the communities in the U.S? Since United Way works at the community level across areas such as education, health, and financial stability, you get to work with the people in your neighborhood closely. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get to know people beyond your old social circle through several of these programs.
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program: Regardless of your financial expertise, you can sign up for the local free tax-preparation program. United Way will give you the essential training to help people in your community who need assistance with tax returns.
- United Way Born Learning: If you are interested in education and teaching, sign up for this program to facilitate early learning opportunities for kids who are just about to start school.
- 211: If you are looking for desk-bound opportunities for seniors, you can volunteer at this 24/7 resource channel. You will handle and manage calls, text messages, and web chats to address requests for queries regarding housing, health care, transportation, and food.
Apply for UN’s Development Program Volunteer Jobs
With retirement opening up your horizon, you have definitely made travel plans as well. So why not combine both interests? That is, volunteer as you travel around. After all, voluntary work doesn’t always mean you must always stick with your local communities. You can do community service overseas as well through the UN’s Development Programme. Even if you are not able to travel abroad, you could still contribute since these opportunities include online programs as well.
- Online volunteer services: If you prefer desk-bound work, go for UNDP’s online volunteer services. Through these, you will be connected with UN entities, public institutions, and civil society organizations to help them tackle the present sustainable development challenges.
- National UN Volunteer: If you wish to offer your skills, knowledge, and services in support of the development and peace programs of the country, apply to work as a National volunteer. This may require you to travel extensively across the country.
- International UN Volunteer: If you are willing and able to travel across borders, go on and apply to be an international UN volunteer. As one of these, you would live and work where basic comforts are limited. Besides, you will be involved in facilitating the development and peace-keeping initiatives of the UN in remote locations across the world.
To apply for any of the above opportunities, you can directly sign up through the official website of the United Nations Development Programme.
Retirement brings along a lot of time in hand that you can use to help others. You are getting the chance to live the second innings of your life with renewed purpose and vigor. When you decide to pursue any of the above volunteer opportunities as a senior, you are setting yourself to live a wholesome life that is enriched with new skills, learnings, experiences, and friendships.