By Anna D. Banks, GCDF

About one third of the 45 million Americans that do volunteering work comprise of retirees. Besides providing a useful form of activity to occupy the free time that they now have after retiring, many retirees also discover that volunteering can be a very good outlet for the vast experience, knowledge and skill that they have acquired during a lifetime.

But making use of free time and using their skills and experience are not the only reasons why retirees are volunteering in increasing numbers, there are many other rewards that they derive from it. Retirees often find that it is also a way of learning new skills, such as developing people and communication skills. They also like the sense of belonging to a group of well meaning and giving people who go out of their way to be of service to others. In their volunteer work, they soon form new bonds with like minded individuals who share the same vision of bettering the community.

Some of the retirees also like the structured way of contributing meaningfully to the society, which they have been cut off from by retiring, such as being disciplined about time and being a part of an organized structure. However, others opt for volunteering as a means of providing a complete break from their previous working life.

For many older people, however, one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is the new sense of purpose they derive from ameliorating the lot of people who often have only them to depend upon. And for people who are new to it, it can also be a way of developing new understanding of people in distress, such as those afflicted with disabilities, bed ridden invalids, sick children, people with little financial means, and so on.

Volunteering, therefore, also helps older people feel that they are making a difference, that by the efforts they put into it, in whatever small way, they have the ability to make things better. This can be a source of great fulfillment.

Besides, when other people are dependent on you, it can often change your whole perspective about yourself and life. For many older people, retirement can often be a stressful time. The loss of a job entails a sense of worthlessness and redundancy. It can almost feel like life and the world has no more use for you. For many, post-retirement depression can set in. Volunteering can be a means focusing on other people and regaining the sense of contributing meaningfully to the community and the world.

Although most people feel that retirement will be the time when they will have all the free time in the world to pursue all the fun things in life that they missed because of the demands made on them by their job, they often discover that in reality boredom soon sets in with all that time on their hands. Volunteering provides a means of keeping busy in a meaningful manner.

People derive great joy from the ability of being of help to others who need it. By volunteering their time and efforts, they give a part of themselves. In return, they get the fulfillment of receiving the blessings and love from people who are usually complete strangers. Although by volunteering they do not expect to gain anything personally, but ultimately many retirees discover that they gain much more than they have given.

The experience often reveals that there is something special about being of service to less fortunate people. The thankful faces, the thought of the difference you make in their lives, to know that you were a part of offering succor to someone who probably had nowhere else to go, can be the most rewarding aspect of volunteering.

© 2008 Anna D. Banks, GCDF

Author’s Note:
Do you have any questions about career development or lifestyle changes for Baby Boomers, which you think others, like you, would want to know the answers? Email your questions to me at