We’ve officially entered the holiday season. For many people, this time of year inspires a giving spirit. You want to find ways to help people and do good in the world. If you’re retired, seeking out local volunteer opportunities is a great way to do that.
Not only does doing volunteer work give you a chance to help others, it comes with a whole host of additional benefits besides. Research has found that volunteering is good for your health – particularly for seniors. It provides a chance to meet other people and make new social connections. And it provides something productive you can do to keep you stimulated and active.
If you’re ready to get started, then the next step is figuring out where to spend your volunteer time. Here are a few ways to find the volunteer opportunity that’s just right for you.
- Talk to friends and family about the local causes they care about.
It’s easy enough to learn about the big national organizations that get a lot of media attention, but a lot of the organizations that most benefit from some extra volunteer help are smaller, local ones that not too many people have heard of. Ask around when you spend time with friends and family members to see if they know of local organizations that they really care about that could use some help.
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll learn about some volunteer opportunities that align with your own values by talking to those you love, but if nothing really jumps out at you as just right, you still have a number of resources to turn to.
- Check out volunteer matching websites.
Several websites exist specifically to help match up volunteers with the organizations that need them. On VolunteerMatch, Create the Good, and idealist you can search for listings of specific positions and needs organizations have in your area. You can narrow your search based on the types of volunteer positions or causes you’re most interested in, or browse everything available in your city.
These sites are great if you have a general idea of what you want to do – for example, if you know you want to help the homeless in your community or find a cause devoted to helping animals – but don’t know of specific organizations in your community that are already doing that kind of work.
- Get involved with SeniorCorps.
SeniorCorps is a national program designed to connect seniors with volunteer opportunities that are specifically suited to their skills and knowledge. You probably have a specific skill set that would be especially useful to an organization. Instead of looking generally for an opportunity that sounds like it might be a fit, SeniorCorps aims to help seniors find an opportunity for which they’re uniquely qualified to provide the help needed.
- Visit your local museums.
When was the last time you went to one of the museums in your community? Most of those museums need volunteers to help man the front desk, give tours to visitors, and work at the events they put on. To find one of these opportunities, you can start by doing some fun, educational homework: work up a list of all the museums in your area and visit them.
If you find one (or two) you especially like, inquire about the kind of volunteer help they need. Volunteering at a museum means learning about something new –possibly on a regular basis, since many museums regularly switch out exhibits. It offers a meaningful way to interact with many new people in your community. It’s therefore a great antidote to the loneliness many seniors experience and can fulfill the desire to keep learning and thinking critically throughout your retirement years.
- Get in touch with your local animal shelter.
Almost every community has a local animal shelter. While adopting a pet from the shelter is often a great move for seniors, you can also (or alternatively) provide ongoing volunteer help there. Most animal shelters need dog walkers and, wouldn’t you know, most seniors could benefit from taking more walks.
Get in touch and see what kind of needs they have, and be clear about any limitations you may have. If you’re not comfortable walking 100-pound dogs with no leash training (and if you have balance issues, that’s a reasonable concern), then they should respect those wishes and let you know when there are dogs in the shelter that you can walk safely.
You may have noticed a common theme throughout this post. A lot of the best ways for you to help others conveniently double as ways for you to help yourself. If you were considering looking for volunteer opportunities this holiday season, but weren’t sure where to start, you now have several options for taking that next step. Now, get out there and do good.