When it comes to retirement, there are a lot of things to consider.
What will you do with your newfound free time? How will you stay active and engaged?
And then there’s this big one:
How can I find my sense of purpose and still help people?
One great option is to volunteer your time and skills to help others.
It can offer many benefits, both for you and the organization you choose to help.
Keep reading to learn more about the 12 benefits of volunteering after retirement. You may be surprised at how much you can gain from giving back.
Why Seniors Should Volunteer — 12 Amazing Benefits
#1 Builds Connections & Friendships
One of the biggest benefits of volunteering after retirement is the chance to make new friends.
Whether you’re working with kids, animals, or adults, volunteering provides ample opportunity to connect with others who share your passions.
The important factor here is to contribute your time and skills at an organization that you truly care about. If you believe in the cause, then you’re more likely to meet other like-minded friends who share that same zeal.
21% of people start volunteering to meet friends and 20% of those who volunteered at least once a month reported making new friends through the volunteer experience, so it’s worth honing in on the right volunteer opportunity.
#2 Gives a Sense of Purpose
Oftentimes when people retire, they find themselves struggling with a sense of purpose. You may have spent your entire life working towards retirement, and once you’ve reached it, you’re wondering what to do next.
While there are plenty of ways for you to find meaning and fulfilment in your life, volunteering is a great start.
One study looked at how volunteering after retirement benefits older adults’ psychological well-being. They found that volunteering significantly helps regain a sense of purpose and identity:
Just be careful to choose the right volunteer opportunity that’s a reflection of your passions and one that aligns with your values. You’ll find that making a difference in someone’s life can make an even bigger one in yours.
#3 Boosts Your Confidence
Think about the last time you did something for someone else without expecting anything in return. Maybe you volunteered your time at a soup kitchen or read stories to kids at the library.
Whatever it was, I bet you felt pretty good about yourself afterwards.
Studies on older adults’ volunteer work found that volunteers reported strengthened levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Ultimately, volunteering pushes you out of your comfort zone, makes you feel appreciated, and builds your self-confidence along the way.
What’s not to love?
#4 Bolsters Your Health
By now we know that volunteering is good for your soul. But what you may not know is that it’s also great for your overall health. A growing body of research is documenting the health benefits of volunteering after retirement.
Those who volunteer:
- Report better sleep quality
- Are less likely to develop hypertension
- Increase their physical activity levels
- Strengthen their functional independence
I’d say that’s a solid list of benefits from one retirement activity.
#5 Keeps Your Mind Sharp
As you get older, it goes without saying that you have to work a bit harder to keep your mind sharp. But did you know that volunteering after retirement benefits your cognitive function?
In fact, thanks to the social and intellectual stimulation involved in volunteering, it’s been shown that seniors who volunteer have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
A longitudinal study observed the effects of volunteering on cognitive functioning in over 11,000 adults over the age of 51.
The findings suggested that the benefits of volunteering after retirement build up over time. And it was especially beneficial for working memory and processing.
Even occasional volunteering works as an excellent preventative measure for Alzheimer’s disease:
So if you’re looking for a way to stay sharp mentally, consider rounding up a few friends and signing up to volunteer together for a cause you believe in. You’ll not only be doing something good for others, but you’ll also be keeping your mind active and healthy.
#6 Teaches You Valuable Skills
There are so many things to learn in life, and volunteering provides a great way to pick up new skills. It’s a perfect opportunity to try something new and expand your horizons.
No matter your age, you can learn a lot from volunteering:
- Uncover new passions
- Understand other perspectives and life circumstances
- Discover hidden talents
- Learn new processes and challenge your brain
There is no age limit to learning — as long as you take on the mindset of a lifelong learner.
If you can combine your sense of purpose with boosting your neuroplasticity, that’s a pretty solid reason to volunteer after retirement.
#7 Lowers Your Stress Level
While many people believe that retirement is a worry-free time, older adults are actually most prone to stress. Let’s face it, many people struggle with adjusting to this very transitional period.
It’s a big deal to go from “structured days full of purpose and knowing your next steps” to “completely unstructured days aimlessly trying to fill a void that’s humming in the background.”
(That’s one common take on it, anyway.)
No matter how you slice it, transitioning into retirement poses a big challenge.
One hugely powerful way to combat that stress is to build resilience.
(Re-) Enter… volunteering.
Some studies suggest that volunteering makes you more resilient to stress. One study found the stress-buffering effect of volunteering improved the emotional well-being of participants who volunteered on a daily basis.
So if you’re looking for ways to reduce stress, consider giving back to your community in the form of volunteering.
#9 Promotes Longevity
A study found that those who volunteered actually lived longer. But only if their heart was in the right place. If your intention is to truly help others (and not to make yourself feel better), you’ll live longer.
According to the study, those who had the right motives in place — as in, they volunteered for reasons like social connection, altruistic values, learning and understanding — had a lower mortality rate when compared to non-volunteers:
This is another reason to really take the time to self-reflect, do the research, and land on a volunteer opportunity that’s a good fit. That alignment with your authenticity is so important, it can even impact your longevity.
#9 Opens Opportunities for Travel
When most people think about travel, they imagine sandy beaches, cool mountain peaks, and far-off villages. But there’s a whole world of possibilities waiting for those who are willing to venture beyond the beaten path to volunteer.
One of the best ways to do that is by volunteering your time and talents in a new location. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in another culture or simply explore somewhere new, volunteering can provide opportunities for adventure that you never thought possible.
So if you’ve been dreaming of seeing the world, consider signing up for a volunteer project and embarking on an unforgettable journey. Start with these 6 travel volunteer opportunities.
#10 Bridges The Generation Gap
Think about the last time you interacted with (or even befriended) someone half your age who wasn’t a family member?
Chances are, it’s been a while. And if recently, then you’re onto something.
One of the benefits of volunteering after retirement is that it opens up the opportunity for intergenerational friendships, which comes with so many benefits. Not only does it serve as a stress buffer, but it can even increase your brain volume and cognitive function.
Whether you’re interacting with kids, teens, or adults, volunteering provides opportunities for meaningful conversations and connections across generations. And that can be really powerful.
#11 Makes You Happier
Simply put — volunteering after retirement makes you happier. When you do a kind thing, it feels almost as if the universe is rewarding your efforts with an uplifting high.
Volunteering, donating money or even just thinking about it can release feel-good brain chemicals. The so-called “helper’s high” is the feeling of joy and satisfaction that you experience after doing a good deed or an act of kindness.
Basically, we’re hard-wired to help others. So why not use it to your (and the world’s) advantage?
#12 Helps You Leave a Legacy
When we think of legacies, we often think of things like money or property passed down to heirs. But what about the legacy of our time on Earth?
Volunteering and charity work can help you build yours. Whether you’re passionate about helping animals, rebuilding communities, or mentoring young people, there’s a volunteer opportunity out there that’s perfect for you.
Have you ever thought about how your life will be remembered after you’re gone? Will you be known for your great achievements? Or will the things you did to help others be the things that are most remembered?
The Next Steps for Volunteering
If you can’t devote the time to volunteer, consider donating to charity organizations. Or if you’re not as physically able, explore these virtual volunteering sites. Or check out these volunteer opportunities to get started.
Regardless of the volunteering path you take, be sure it’s an opportunity that energizes you.
What matters is that all of these benefits of volunteering after retirement will come together when you start with the right:
- Intentions and real desire to help others
- Organization and opportunity
- People who you enjoy and appreciate
- Cause that you believe in
- Role that features your unique skills and personality
You get the gist — it’s all about finding a volunteer gig that energizes you and aligns with the authentic YOU.
We’re proud you’re taking the first step to making a difference.