How Volunteering Can Be Just as Good for You as for the Community
Reaching retirement can finally give you the time you need to join the 13 million Canadians who volunteer every year.
Having more spare time – and the desire to use it well – has made retirees the most important demographic among volunteers. When you consider volunteer trends in Canada, retirees aged 65-74 volunteer the most hours in a year and 38% of the most active volunteers are aged 55 and over.
Here we look at reasons why you should consider volunteering and the kind of volunteer positions available.
Why volunteering is good for you
There are so many benefits of volunteering, which go far beyond its immediate impact. For many people, volunteering is about giving a boost to a cause that they support. This could be a volunteer position that supports healthcare, the elderly, the homeless, animals, children, the arts or the environment. Many organizations rely on volunteer positions to survive and without this support, many essential services would be lost.
Research suggests that volunteering also creates “social cohesion” by promoting trust and a sense of belonging in communities. Volunteers also benefit from the experience of the work itself. They can acquire new skills learnt on the job as well as knowledge of social or political issues.
Volunteering can also bring these benefits to volunteers:
- Being sociable and meeting new people
- Gaining new experiences
- Challenging yourself
- Fulfilling the need to be needed
- Keeping your mind and body active
- Having fun
A study by Volunteer Canada also found that volunteers are happier and healthier in their later years than those who don’t volunteer.
Volunteer trends in Canada include the ability to be flexible with your volunteering time. Many organizations recognize that retired volunteers may only be able to work a certain number of days or at certain times of the year and they’re often willing to accommodate your schedule.
Finding the best volunteer position for you
Many people look to put their lifelong skills and experience to good use when volunteering. Retired business executives serve on the boards of charities, former health care professionals volunteer in hospitals and ex-teachers work with children.
Other non-profit volunteer positions allow people to indulge their hobbies. Budding photographers can take pictures of charity events, keen gardeners can work on community garden projects and sports enthusiasts can become coaches.
Others use volunteering to get involved in a field that they love but have never tried before. For theatre lovers there are volunteer positions at children’s and community theatre, movie buffs can work at film festivals and animal lovers can help at animal shelters.
Some volunteers prefer to work for a specific organization. This could either be because they feel a strong affinity to that organization’s work, or they or a loved one may have been helped by it. For them, the kind of work is not as important as the organization they volunteer for.
Where to look for volunteer opportunities in Canada
If there is a specific organization or charity that you want to volunteer for, contact them directly. Many have volunteer coordinators who can tell you which kinds of volunteer positions are available.
The internet is another good source of information on volunteer opportunities in Canada. Most charities and not-for-profit organizations list non-profit volunteer positions on their websites.
Volunteer Canada and Charity Village carry extensive lists of volunteer positions in Canada, in a wide variety of organizations. Pick your location and then search by areas of interest. This could be working with animals, children or seniors, the environment, disabilities, human rights and many more.
Alternatively, you could look for specific volunteer positions. Examples include management, counseling, entertainment, translation services, photography/ videography, gardening, mentoring, IT support and marketing.
There are so many volunteer opportunities in Canada that you are likely to find one that suits your interests or skills.
Overseas volunteering – combine a trip with good deeds
There are a number of organizations that coordinate non-profit volunteer positions overseas. Quite often, the majority of their volunteers are over 55 and some have programs designed specifically for retired volunteers.
International volunteer opportunities are available in Asia, South America and Africa, as well as Australasia and Europe.
The jobs involved in retired volunteer programs vary greatly and include teaching, caring for at-risk youth, health care, construction, conservation, archeology, research and sports coaching. You choose the duration of your volunteering trip, which can range from a week or two to several months.
Most organizations that offer international volunteer opportunities charge fees to participate. Costs vary per organization but the price per week typically reduces the longer you stay. Fees can include accommodation, food, airport transfers, training and transport to work. Your flights and any necessary visas are usually not covered.
The websites of organizations like Projects Abroad, Global Vision International, International Volunteer HQ and Oceanic Society Expeditions can give you an idea of the kinds of international volunteer opportunities on offer and the costs that go with them.
How volunteering can fit into your overall retirement planning
Volunteering can play a role in most aspects of retirement planning. On retiring, many Canadians plan on spending more time travelling, on recreation and hobbies and with family.
Volunteering allows you to combine some or all of these plans. You can volunteer as a family, at your grandchildren’s school or at a relative’s nursing home. You can find a volunteer position that involves your favourite hobby or sport, such as being a swimming buddy for someone with a disability or running a chess club at a youth drop-in centre.
Many people plan on travelling extensively after they retire and, as we’ve seen, there are many opportunities to volunteer abroad. Another big part of retirement planning is giving to worthy causes. Volunteering is a great way to get to know an organization and to maximize your positive impact with both your time and money.
A win-win situation
With so many benefits to volunteering, it’s not surprising that it’s among the most popular activities for many retirees. You’re able to use your experience and expertise to make a real difference to the community and to the lives of others.
You’ll also give yourself a real sense of purpose, build up your social life and improve your physical and mental health. Is it time for you to become one of the 13 million Canadian volunteers?