How to Volunteer as a Senior In 2023
As a senior in retirement, if you feel like you’re not spending your days meaningfully, volunteering is a great way to use your time and accumulated expertise for your community’s benefit, stay active, and forge new friendships! With a plethora of senior volunteering activities available in 2023, you can easily find a role that fits your interests and schedule. So, let’s delve into the realm of volunteering for seniors, including its benefits and considerations.
Benefits of Volunteering for Seniors
Better physical health
Volunteering has proven to be beneficial for retirees as it can help reduce the risk of diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles, like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Studies also show that senior citizens who volunteered for over 100 hours per year were 17% less likely to develop physical functioning limitations than those who didn’t volunteer at all.
Improved mental health
Retirement may lead to a sense of disconnection from the outside world. Volunteering with other seniors and people from younger age groups can help you to reconnect with your community and counteract the feelings of loneliness. Additionally, the act of serving others can also bring a sense of purpose and optimism and improve overall mental well-being.
The opportunity to form friendships
Volunteering activities often require you to interact with people from varied walks of life, from those you collaborate with to those you help. Thus, senior volunteering can give one a chance to expand their social circle, find support, and form meaningful relationships with like-minded people.
Insurance and stipend
Some organizations like AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP cover the cost of food and transportation and offer personal and accident insurance to their volunteers. These benefits vary depending on the organization, role, and volunteering requirements. You can research or inquire about the potential benefits before committing to an opportunity.
Positive impact on community
Apart from these personal advantages, volunteering directly impacts your community in a positive way. It enables societal changes, helps bridge the gap between the have and have-nots, inspires others, and fosters a culture of service and kindness.
How to find volunteering opportunities as a senior in 2023
If you’re unsure of where to volunteer, you can look up reputable charitable organizations in your neighborhood or vicinity that may be in need of urgent assistance. You can use reliable online portals that curate these opportunities and include detailed summaries, reviews, and prerequisites of them. Once you’ve gone through these opportunities, you can easily apply for volunteering roles that fit your abilities, interests, and availability. You can also ask your friends, old co-workers, or family members for recommendations and take their help to vet organizations.
VolunteerMatch has one of the largest volunteer engagement networks of nonprofit organizations (NPOs). The platform connects NPOs, government organizations, schools, and other tax-exempt firms with interested volunteers through a user-friendly interface. The stated volunteering roles provide vital details, including the NPO’s contact information, requirements, and if the opportunity provides training, stipend, and housing facilities at a glance. You can also narrow down your search for the nearest NPOs based on your location preference and skillset. So far, VolunteerMatch has matched over 17.8 million volunteers through its portal, and there’s still a need for over 11 million volunteers.
JustServe is a platform that presents a variety of ongoing volunteering opportunities, whether virtual or on-site. Additionally, you can use the platform to discover projects or organizations located within a specific distance from where you are. On the JustServe website, you can also read success stories that highlight past events, accompanied by photos and other pertinent information that can be encouraging for first-time volunteers.
Point of Light Engage
Point of Light Engage is another organization that lists local volunteering opportunities and connects people to them. Visitors can also initiate their own projects on the platform. A key feature of the platform is the ability to filter volunteer opportunities by categories such as good for seniors, indoor or outdoor activities, remote or in-person volunteering, skills such as teaching, technology, caregiving, photography, health professions, and more. These filters enable users to easily find volunteer projects that align with their interests and abilities.
Catchafire.org pairs your professional skills, from engineering and accounting to sales and branding, with suitable NPOs. Catchafire primarily offers remote volunteering opportunities, making it easier for seniors to offer their service from the comfort of their homes. You can even opt for their popular ‘1-hour phone calls’ opportunity, where you offer your subject matter expertise, counseling, and guidance to those in need.
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in New York, Idealist is a nonprofit organization that has matched millions of volunteers to over 130,000 organizations. As an elderly citizen volunteering, you can choose from a range of remote, on-site, or hybrid volunteering roles listed on Idealist in areas like arts and craft, climate change, community development, family, health and medicine, refugees and homeless, prison reform, poverty, seniors and retirement, and more. You can also filter your search based on your location, making it easier to identify NPOs in your neighborhood in need of assistance.
Create the Good by AARP
AARP’s (American Association of Retired Persons) nonprofit initiative, Create the Good, offers a comprehensive database of volunteering opportunities. The platform has over 200,000 members in its network and uses an intuitive and easy-to-navigate search tool to match users with NPOs. As a senior volunteer, you have to create an account on the website to pick a cause that appeals to you.
Doing Good Together
This platform is mainly focused on providing volunteering opportunities for families or large groups. Seniors or family members who want to share the spirit of selfless service within their community can sign up and find volunteer roles suitable for a group. Currently, Doing Good Together has free listings in major cities like Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York, Oakland-East Bay, San Diego, St. Louis, Seattle, Silicon Valley, and the Twin Cities.
This is a free-to-use online portal that serves as a volunteer recruitment and management platform for people who want to support causes led by federal agencies. As a senior looking for volunteering jobs, you can browse through a range of tasks, submit an application to the ones you’re interested in, and track your working hours. You can volunteer for one of its major partners:
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Bureau of Land Management
- US Geological Survey
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
- US Forest Service
- National Park Service
Each opportunity listed on Volunteer.gov states the difficulty level, the time frame, and location. Depending on the cause you’re passionate about, you can leverage your skills and time for the work.
Types of volunteering opportunities for your interests and skills
You can find numerous senior volunteer opportunities catering to different skill sets and interests. Before exploring organizations, you can consider your passions, what kind of impact you wish to make in your community, and the type of work you would find the most joy and fulfillment in. Some volunteering opportunities are telephonic, while some are online, requiring working knowledge of a computer. So, retired seniors can opt for these from the comfort of their homes.
Soup kitchen volunteering
Soup kitchens, also known as meal centers, are places that prepare and distribute free meals to the homeless and needy people. Many NPOs run soup kitchens within their communities and look for volunteers of all ages, be it seniors or youngsters, to help with preparing and serving meals, organizing the distribution drives, and helping with clean-up.
- Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is one of the most popular soup kitchens with a wide national network. Their goal is to deliver nutritious food boxes to elderly citizens who are unable to leave their homes and disabled people. With over 5,000 local programs, which are independently operated by volunteers, Meals on Wheels works in collaboration with government agencies and hospitals. As a retired senior volunteer, you have the option to choose any of their kitchen duties, like assisting with sorting, portioning, sealing, and preparing food, and driving the packaged meals to Meals on Wheels clients. You can look up the nearest Meals on Wheels channel in your area and go through their website page to find their latest volunteer listings.
- Feeding America
Feeding America is another organization that aims to fight hunger, reduce food waste, and provide groceries and meals to those in need. Feeding America has a wide network of over 200 food banks in the country that serve millions of people. You can use the ‘Find A Book Bank’ feature of Feeding America’s official website to locate a serving center near your area. You can then contact the local food bank and offer your assistance as per their needs. Some common volunteering tasks for seniors involve helping with clerical duties, collecting leftover produce from community gardens or farms, stocking and packing food boxes, and distributing them safely. Feeding America provides sanitization products like masks and gloves and also provides training to the volunteers before they can get started.
Retired senior volunteers from educational backgrounds or with an interest in teaching can take the opportunity to become tutors and mentors to the younger generation. The duties in this category may entail working with kids in schools or community centers, promoting literacy among adults, assisting immigrants or others with their English language proficiency, or training youngsters for jobs. Similarly, seniors with a penchant for learning can help organizations with research work.
- The United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
UNV is a trusted volunteering program administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Focused on supporting sustainable development across the globe, UNV opportunities are ideal for people with an intellectual bent. After registration, UNV considers your language and area expertise and volunteering preferences through a recruitment process. Once selected, the organization adds your profile to their talent pool and matches you with any of their short- and long-term assignments, from a week to over a year. Some listed UNV projects like translation documents, writing, and teaching may be tackled from home and through online coordination. UNV covers almost all your expenses during the length of your assignment.
- Public libraries
Public libraries are an excellent way for senior readers and bookworms to spend more time at the library. Public libraries in places like Nashua, NH, Brooklyn, NY, Seattle, WA, Evanston, IL, or Princeton, NJ, welcome volunteering to help with a variety of tasks. As a retired senior, you can help libraries with shelving books, maintaining collections, setting up and taking down rooms, greeting families, sharing information about library events, exhibits, and activities with visitors, and much more. Some public libraries also have tutoring and mentoring options where seniors can help kids with homework or work towards developing their English speaking skills.
Disaster relief volunteering
Seniors in their retirement who are physically fit and able can consider assisting NPOs that work toward organizing relief and rescue operations for disaster-hit victims.
- Direct Relief
Direct Relief is a charity that aims to help people living in poverty or those struck by disaster with emergency medical aid. They collaborate with regional organizations and healthcare systems to provide critical medical supplies to physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Seniors who want to volunteer for Direct Relief but are not in the healthcare industry can also assist the organization by helping to pack and transport essential supplies.
- American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is another humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance and education for disaster preparedness. Elderly volunteers who want to help with this cause can aid in organizing blood donation drives or serve as a receptionist at its local offices.
One of the best volunteering opportunities for senior citizens from the healthcare profession is to lend their hours and expertise to nonprofit medical centers. You can also assist with patient care, provide administrative support to staff, and get involved with other non-medical tasks.
- March of Dimes
The NPO first started with the goal of eradicating polio in 1938. Eventually, March of Dimes initiated programs for the prevention of birth deformities, preterm birth, and infant mortality. Senior citizens, after retirement, can take part in volunteering programs, such as fundraising and event planning activities. The organization also has some self-directed opportunities that you can do from your home, like assembling care kits for parents with premature childbirths or sending postcards to policymakers and elected officials encouraging them to prioritize maternal and infant health. Additionally, you can also send gifts or meals to healthcare experts. To start your volunteering journey with March of Dimes, you have to fill out a short online form on their website and wait for a representative to contact you for further communication.
- The Alzheimer’s Association
Another NPO that focuses on medical volunteering for a specific section of society is the Alzheimer’s Association. A research by the NPO concluded that over 6 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease, and the number is likely to bump up to 13 million by 2050. A majority of these people are senior citizens. Family members are likely to bear a majority of their medical expenses, which places additional financial strain on individuals with limited means. The Alzheimer’s Association hopes to lessen some of the burden by engaging seniors and others in their volunteering activities. In addition, the association provides training to all volunteers. As an elderly citizen volunteering, you can help the NPO with data entry tasks or participate in fundraising events like Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Through these events, you can encourage participants, secure sponsorships, help with registration and check-ins, and also educate people about the condition.
Retirees who are passionate about the environment can volunteer with organizations that prioritize conservation and environmental issues. You can be part of a volunteer-led drive to plant trees, clean up parks and beaches, and inform people about environmental concerns.
- Community gardens
Community gardens are shared public spaces where individuals grow fresh, healthy produce. These are usually local farms that aim to promote the overall health and well-being of the community. Since these gardens are designed, built, and maintained entirely by the concerned community, volunteers have ample opportunities to make the most of the space. For older adults especially, gardening can promote brain health, enhance the immune system, and reduce the risk of dementia, heart disease, and high blood pressure. The act of gardening also provides mental stimulation and cultivates feelings of well-being. So, as a retired elderly, you can dedicate a few hours a week to plant and harvest the produce, water the plants, work with kids, or provide office support. Similarly, senior horticulture experts can provide gardening knowledge and help with construction, design, and organization of the garden to enhance the open space.
Animal welfare volunteering
Animal shelters and welfare centers constantly need volunteers who can walk, feed, and keep the stray animals accompanied and entertained till they find permanent homes. Retired seniors who love animals can look for volunteering opportunities in their neighboring rescue groups or shelters.
- Humane Society (HSUS)
The Humane Society and its affiliated animal care centers across the country work to rescue and rehabilitate animals, preserve wildlife habitats, provide veterinary services, and work to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal levels. Some of their affiliated centers include The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society International, The Humane Society Legislative Fund, and The Fund for Animals. Depending on your interest and expertise, you can work with the Humane Society and any of the affiliates. As a dedicated and experienced senior volunteer, you can influence lawmakers to pass laws protecting animals, provide hands-on care and treatment for injured animals, and influence the public perception and attitude toward all animals. The organization conducts a background check for newly registered volunteers before taking them on board for safety purposes.
Other large-scale organizations with diverse opportunities
AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP
RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) is a part of the federal organization called AmeriCorps Seniors. RSVP connects 55 and older adults with nonprofits that offer relevant volunteering opportunities to them. Senior RSVP members can take on a variety of tasks that serve their community, including teaching, tax preparation, food delivery, helping homebound elderly, disaster assistance, and more. To get started with RSVP, you have to apply to your local RSVP branch online. For example, seniors in Oklahoma City, OKC, can fill up a simple form at rsvpokc.org providing personal details, outlining skills and experiences with volunteering, and available hours. After that, the organization will personally contact you with suitable opportunities for you.
The United Way
This NPO focuses mainly on providing education, financial stability, and health facilities to lesser-privileged communities. As a retired senior professional, you can choose to mentor youngsters, read to school kids in the neighborhood, beautify community gardens, or sort through and distribute donated items. If you have experience in nursing, you can support new parents with child care. Similarly, retirees with a financial background can help low-income people with tax preparation. You can find local United Way outlets or opportunities listed in your area by typing in your zip code on the NPO’s official webpage. You can either browse through the online portal or directly contact the team for the latest volunteer opportunities for the elderly and retirees.
Habitat for Humanity
Another organization with a nationwide presence that helps underprivileged families to find a home is Habitat for Humanity. This NPO builds and improves residential places for those who cannot afford renovation or repairs. If you’ve been part of the construction industry, as a retired senior, you can provide your expertise in assisting Habitat for Humanity with construction sites, or you can help their clients with administrative tasks and fundraising activities. Alternatively, you can also work at Habitat for Humanity’s local retail outlet and assist with stocking the shelves, organizing donated items, or serving customers.
Apart from these organizations, there are several other NPOs operating on small and large scales and making a huge impact on their immediate local communities. There is a suitable opportunity for everyone, whether you’re a retired professional wanting to guide the younger generation with your industry knowledge, or a senior citizen simply looking to expand your social circle.
What to consider before joining a volunteer program
Senior volunteering can be a rewarding experience, but not all opportunities that come your way may be suitable for you. As a senior volunteer, there are some factors you should consider before signing up with any organization to ensure you have a positive and safe experience:
Prioritize your health
Studies show that volunteering can be beneficial for seniors. It can improve your mobility, alleviate the feelings of loneliness, increase longevity, and bring mental and physical well-being. But many volunteering activities involve physical exertion that may be challenging for some seniors. So, it’s important to put your health first and not engage in activities that can jeopardize your health and safety. You can consult a healthcare professional and get suggestions on the most suitable volunteering activity for you.
Assess your availability and skills
Assess how well each volunteering opportunity fits with your skills, schedule, and preferred level of involvement.
Trust your instincts
While online research and reviews can give you an idea of the organization’s work and credibility, it’s equally important to listen to your gut. Organizations that have no physical presence or appear suspicious in any way should be avoided. It’s essential to be cautious and ensure that you feel comfortable and confident before committing to a volunteering role.
Choose reputable organizations
Many organizations require you to sign up or register online with them. Registration usually entails sharing your personal information, skills you can offer, your schedule, and availability. Choosing a reputable and trusted organization — whether local or national — ensures safety. Look for organizations with wide outreach, legitimate achievements, and proven track records of making a positive impact on your community. A few ways to know an NPO’s credibility are to read up on online reviews and talk to past volunteers. Their experiences can help you to gain insights into the functioning of the organization. You can also visit the NPO’s official website to study their goals, mission, activities, and values. Look for transparency in their financial and operational activities. Additionally, authority- or government-certified organizations can be trusted to adhere to standard practices and safety measures for volunteers.