Retirement is great. I’m really enjoying it. First of all, I HATE getting up early, and since all the early risers got up before me and set up the world ito suit themselves, work hours just never agreed with me. Now, I can set up my life so I don’t have to be ANYWHERE before noon.
However, there are downsides. Foremost is limited money. I’m not complaining; I have one of those dinosaurs of modern life: a pension. I have enough money to live on, but not really enough to be frivolous. So I’m always looking for ways to make that work. Frivolity is good.
Another downside people complain about is boredom and not having enough to do. I can’t say that’s a problem for me. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where there are more things to do than time to do them. But some retirees suffer from a feeling of letdown when they don’t have a regular job to go to every day. (Really???)
Why Not Go Volunteering?
Volunteering provides a one-stop solution to both of these downsides. First of all, there are endless needs right there in your own community: people who need whatever expertise you accumulated during your working days. Maybe you were a tax preparer? Volunteer to help people with that onerous task. Maybe you got pretty darned proficient with computer software? Many Literacy Centers and Libraries sponsor programs to help people learn those skills. Food banks always need volunteers. Volunteer work can be very satisfying and is certainly a great public service.
Volunteering can be a great way to learn skills, too. Volunteer with a group that’s helping establish a community garden to learn gardening skills. Volunteer with a group that teaches kids about local natural history and learn about it yourself at the same time. Retirement gives us time to pursue all those things we didn’t have time for while we were knee-deep in work.
Most communities have some kind of organization that helps match retirees with groups who need volunteers. Check with your local senior center or other community organization. Or just Google “volunteering in <name of your town>.”
I have to admit: the volunteer activities I participate in most happen to serve both of my retirement downsides. I volunteer as an usher at my local live theater/music venue, where I get to see the shows for the price of a little labor before and after. And I accumulate credits toward shows I can attend as a bonafide audience member. Check with your local opera company, theater group or symphony hall to see if that’s possible in your area. I find that I attend shows I wouldn’t have considered going to if I had to pay, and my general level of culture benefits.
My favorite unpaid job is working the door at the local Folk Club. I get to see six fantastic shows every Fall/Winter and all I have to do is show up early and take tickets. I’ve also done the same job for community theater productions. I happen to have connections because I participate in many of the productions, but that’s not a requirement. These groups always need volunteers to keep their costs down, and you get to see wonderful shows for free!
What kind of volunteering do you do? We’d love to hear about your experiences.