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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

October 2012


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month



When asked why he decided to volunteer Tom Richardson replied. “When I retired I discovered that retirement was not an occupation. My first impulse was to ensure I remained active and fully occupied. Volunteering was, I found, the ideal way of achieving this aim.”

Tom contacted Reach, the skilled volunteering charity. That was in 1999 and now 13 years later and with six volunteering assignments under his belt, Tom is continuing to use his professional management skills to help charities which highly value them. For Tom, the advantage of going back to Reach once his assignments have been completed is that they maintain an active register of challenging opportunities that require specific skill sets. “It’s very good at identifying opportunities where your experience would be best utilised and most appreciated.”

Tom is one of many older people who have found that volunteering has had a positive impact on their sense of wellbeing. WRVS, a national charity that supports older people, recently published a new study which revealed that older people who volunteer are less depressed, have a better quality of life and are happier. The study, which examines the relationship between volunteering in later life and wellbeing, looked at the impact of volunteering of those over state pension age on depression symptoms, quality of life, life satisfaction and social isolation. The results showed an improvement in volunteers compared with non-volunteers, for each of these wellbeing outcomes examined. The study also finds that the more volunteering activities that a person is involved in, and the more frequently they do those activities, the happier they are.

Research initiated by The Chartered Insurance Institute concluded that people who volunteer have a more positive outlook on life and better mental health. Volunteers who responded felt they had made a valuable contribution to society and developed new skills.

Tom Richardson contributed his skills to The British Tinnitus Association, the Prince’s Trust and the Apex Trust, among others. Currently, Tom is volunteering as a mentor to young offenders. “The thing about mentoring,” says Tom, “is that I get as much out of it as the lads do.”

A check list of DO’s …and a few DON’Ts


  • Find out about the organisation. You need to be enthusiastic about its aims and activities.
  • Be selective about the job and the working environment. Job satisfaction is even more important in a voluntary appointment than it is in a paid one.
  • Be flexible. Be ready to do things yourself where you may be used to having other people do them for you.
  • Find ways to use your management skills. Often it is the professional’s trained mind and ability to use resources effectively that are likely to be needed, rather than a particular expertise.
  • Be prepared for a new work style and attitudes. It will probably be more informal and less structured than you are used to.
  • Do agree a trial period. Fair to both parties, it gives the opportunity to withdraw gracefully if the appointment is not working out.
  • Sort out the practical details – things like expenses, travel, hours and insurance.
  • Aim to keep learning. Take advantage of every opportunity to increase your knowledge. You may well have to take the initiative in acquiring background information essential to the performance of your job.
  • Consider home-based jobs, where offered. Many will involve contact with colleagues too.
  • Enjoy yourself! Voluntary work is not only useful, but it should be satisfying and fun.


  • Over-commit yourself – very easy in the first flush of enthusiasm. Decide how much time you can offer and stick to it.
  • Expect too much responsibility – not at first, anyway. Whatever your career achievements, to the organisation you are new, part-time and untried.
  • Expect the same facilities. Most organisations exist on very tight budgets and have to keep their costs as low as possible. You will be unlikely to have the back-up staff and equipment you are used to and office accommodation may be cramped.
  • Try to move too quickly. Even though you may see considerable scope for improvement in the way things are done, premature attempts to implement your own methods may not work.

To contact Reach go to or telephone 020 7582 6543

If you still have questions why not take a look at laterlife's own
Guide to Voluntary Work


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