Health

22 Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published October 08, 2020 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

After seeing your children off and perhaps retiring from the workforce, you may find yourself with more free time on your hands. And there’s no better way to spend that free time than by giving back to the community through volunteer work.

There are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there that may pique your interests. Below are 22 easy ways you can get involved and help improve the lives of those in your community and around the world.

woman cooking with kids

1. Volunteer to fight hunger

Food insecurity and hunger are becoming a major problem in the United States. According to Feeding America, more than 42 million Americans face food insecurity. That includes more than 13 million children.

The National Council on Aging also estimates 10.2 million seniors dealt with hunger in 2014. There’s certainly a need for all people to get involved in order to stop this epidemic.

Check out these organizations that need volunteers to help alleviate food insecurity:

2. Mentor children

Spending a few hours a week with a young person can make a big impact in their lives. A study from Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada found that youth who have a mentor are less likely to experience behavioral problems — such as anxiety and bullying — and have higher self-esteem.

Becoming a mentor is a great volunteer option for retired adults. The time commitment can vary depending on the program but may range from four to eight hours a month.

If you have an interest in becoming a positive influence in a child’s life, consider some of these popular mentoring programs that are available across the country:

You can also check in with the local community and religious organizations to see if they have their own mentoring efforts.

3. Volunteer at a local animal shelter

According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million dogs and cats end up in shelters in the United States every year. While that number has been declining thanks to an increase in adoptions, there’s still a huge demand for volunteers. If you’re an animal lover, consider lending a helping hand at a local shelter.

There are lots of ways to get involved, including community outreach, cleaning and caring for the animals and fostering pets in your home. Learn more from the organizations below:

Consider searching online for local animal shelters in need of volunteer support.

4. Help Habitat for Humanity

Former President Jimmy Carter is Habitat for Humanity’s most famous volunteer, and he’s still pitching in at age 92. Get in touch with your local Habitat chapter to find building projects near you.

If you like to travel, Habitat offers opportunities for volunteers to build around the world. Habitat is currently in 40 countries. You can also sign up for the Disaster Corps to help those displaced by natural disasters.

construction volunteers

5. Get involved in politics

Are you politically inclined? Retirement offers plenty of time to pitch in with a campaign or even run for local office. There are many political organizations that rely on volunteers.

If you’re not interested in partisanship, consider becoming a poll worker on election days. Helping citizens register to vote and ensuring the voting process runs smoothly is just one of the many ways you can assist the democratic process.

6. Join RSVP

Not sure exactly what you want to do? Join RSVP. This nationwide network of volunteers is specific to those age 55 and older and features a variety of volunteer opportunities. You can head up a neighborhood watch program, tutor or mentor disadvantaged or disabled youth, renovate homes, teach English to immigrants, assist victims of natural disasters and more.

You’ll choose where, how and how often you wish to work, and you’ll even receive supplemental insurance while on duty.

7. Volunteer at a children’s hospital

One of the most rewarding ways to volunteer is by giving back to children. Volunteers can brighten the days of children and parents alike by playing at a patient’s bedside, delivering flowers, sorting donations, filing paperwork or helping people find their way around the hospital.  

Check with your local children’s hospital for volunteer opportunities, or find a St. Jude event in your community.

8. Spruce up the neighborhood

A little TLC can do wonders for a neighborhood, and community beautification projects are great volunteer opportunities. Planting flowers, painting park benches and patching up chain link fences are just a few ways you can improve the overall feel and reputation of a neighborhood.

9. Help out at a food bank or soup kitchen

Food banks and soup kitchens are some of the most popular places people volunteer their time. Feeding America is a great resource for locating a local food bank. Foodpantries.org is a place where you can search for food pantries, soup kitchens and other hunger-fighting organizations in your community. Lastly, homelessshelterdirectory.org can provide you with a list of soup kitchens and food pantries near you.

10. Volunteer at a library

A library is a great place for adults to volunteer. Sorting and shelving books, helping customers find the book they’re looking for and helping with children’s programs are just some of the ways volunteers can help out at their local library. And due to budget restrictions, volunteers have become an integral part of public libraries in recent years.

11. Volunteer in your area of expertise

Having years of experience in a certain field can set you up for a wealth of volunteer opportunities within that same line of work. Retired lawyers can volunteer legal counsel to those without sufficient means. Retired accountants can volunteer to help people with their taxes each spring. No matter the type of work you have experience in, there’s likely a way you can volunteer to do it for someone and your experience will be a valuable contribution.

12. Host an exchange student

With an empty nest at home, some adults may have the perfect opportunity to host a foreign exchange student. Just a few of the numerous organizations with such opportunities include:

13. Join the Peace Corps

That’s right — the Peace Corps isn’t just for young people. The Peace Corps has no age limit for its volunteers and is actually trying to boost its population of volunteers over the age of 50. The Peace Corps even has a page dedicated specifically to older volunteers.

14. Support the Troops

You don’t have to be retired military personnel to get on board with this one. Volunteers with the United Service Organizations (USO) are involved with anything that can help improve the quality of life for service members and their families. You might greet troops as they return home from overseas duty or provide them with meals at the airport during layovers.    

15. Go on vacation

You can combine a passion for volunteering with a love of traveling. By volunteering in another country (often called “voluntourism” or “service learning”), you can visit historic places to participate in restoration work, take up wildlife conservation efforts or perform humanitarian service in third-world countries. Voluntourism is a way to have your cake and eat it, too.

16. Clean up a disaster

Not a year goes by that some part of the world isn’t affected by a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood or tornado. And many of them happen right here in the U.S.

With each disaster comes an opportunity for volunteers interested in helping out with the cleanup effort. There’s no such thing as too much help following a disaster, and volunteers can pitch in by handling supplies, collecting donations, performing administrative tasks or offering comfort and care to victims. The American Red Cross responds to more than 65,000 disasters every year and can use volunteers for each one.

17. Give the grand tour

Universities, museums, zoos, aquariums, historical sites and botanical gardens often have a need for volunteers to lead tours or educate visitors. It’s a great chance to learn new things, spend your time in an educational or cultural environment and help others acquire new knowledge.

18. Enjoy the great outdoors

Of the more than 220,000 people that volunteered with the National Park Service in 2011, more than half were age 62 or older. Volunteers can contribute on a one-time basis or in a recurring role, taking on a wide variety of duties. Volunteering with the NPS is a great way to serve both nature and people alike.

senior volunteers

19. Get creative

If you have any experience in music, art, writing, photography, dance, acting or any other artistic endeavor, there are volunteer opportunities for you to share your talents. Local theaters and cultural or community centers are great places for you to offer up your knowledge of the arts to others.

Read about how one group of retired adults made a difference in the lives of veterans.

20. Join a civic organization

Civic clubs are popular among adults of all ages who are passionate about community service and who want to develop lasting friend relationships. Perhaps you can consider giving back to an organization you were involved with when you were younger.

No matter where you live, there is likely a wide range of religious, non-religious, non-profit and other organizations right around the corner.

Check out some organizations that might be near you:

21. Coach a sports team

Were you once a star athlete? Are your sports glory days behind you? Consider sharing your love of the game with your community by volunteering as a head coach or an assistant coach with the YMCA. Other organizations such as the Catholic Youth Organization and other local groups may also host teams for which you can volunteer as a coach.

22. Teach

One of the most rewarding ways to give back to the community is to teach others. Check with your local community college, volunteer listings and educational non-profits for ways to get involved. You can consider tutoring younger students, but there also might be local options to work with adult populations, such as teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Some organizations such as the Posse Foundation have volunteer teaching opportunities in cities across the country. You can also consider substitute teaching. This is a great way to get involved and help serve schools in your area, and most substitute teachers are paid daily for their work. Check in with your local school system to learn about city, county and state requirements to become a substitute teacher.

teacher

Find Your Passion and Get Involved Today

With so many organizations and causes out there, there’s bound to be a volunteer opportunity that’s a perfect fit for you in your community. Did you know that research has shown that older volunteers experience improved mental health and longer life expectancy? You won’t just be helping others, you’ll be helping yourself, too.

Take some time and decide where you’d like to focus your talents. Then get in touch with the cause of your choosing and get started!

Here are some recommended further readings for aging with contentment and staying healthy:

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Sources:

Feeding America: www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet

NCOA: www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/senior-hunger-facts

Psychology Today: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201301/mentoring-youth-matters

ASPCA: www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics

American Libraries: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/those-who-can-do-those-who-can-do-more-volunteer

Retired Brains: www.retiredbrains.com/join-the-peace-corps.html

American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1

Marketwatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-great-volunteer-jobs-for-retirees

Healthline: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/volunteering-has-benefits-not-for-all-ages

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