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Should Volunteering Be Part of Your Retirement Plan?

The retirement years are a time of relaxation, self-reflection and reward after decades of working and raising a family. But a quality retirement isn’t just about taking time off; for many it’s about putting time in to something that touches other people’s lives, and that means volunteering.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to help people and animals that are in need. But volunteering can also be about helping your community, restoring historical buildings, even saving the local environment.
And while that’s all well and good from an altruistic standpoint, in this post, I want to talk about what’s in it for you—besides the good feelings you get from helping others.
Selfish Reasons to Volunteer
• According to the Population Reference Bureau, volunteerism has been shown to help older adults increase their physical functioning, reduce depression and lengthen their lives.
• The Corporation for National and Community Service reported in 2010 that the sense of purpose and community gained by volunteering resulted in higher self-reported levels of well-being and less disability among seniors. Further, volunteering had a greater influence over the health and well-being than education, marriage and income.
• The UK-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that volunteering helps seniors create a new and vital social network as they’re introduced to other senior volunteers who “look out for each other.”
Finding Volunteer Opportunities
There are many different volunteer opportunities in your area. Visit the following locations to find some:
• schools
• hospitals
• churches
• animal shelters
• campaign headquarters
• senior center
• library
• historical society
• college and/or technical school campus
• nursing homes
• hospice
• Get in touch with large volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
General Tips for Volunteering
• Don’t overcommit: Take it slow at first. Even if you’ve only been retired for a little while, you might be surprisingly protective of your free time, so volunteer for short periods at first until you get a sense of your boundaries.
• Mind your emotions: It’s hard not to get emotional when volunteering in certain situations. But if a certain environment/situation is too emotionally charged, it may not be the right place for you. Consider your personal “soft” spots when looking for opportunities.
• Take it seriously: Volunteering may not be paid, but organizations are still relying on you to show up on time and do what you say you will.

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