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Planning Retirement Online

Volunteering is good for here’s a chance to use your skills overseas

October 2013

It has already been proven that keeping busy and active is a key to health and happiness in later life.

Now more information is coming out on how volunteering can really be good for both mental and physical health.

It has already been proven that keeping busy and active is a key to health and happiness in later life. Now more information is coming out on how volunteering can really be good for both mental and physical health.

A major review led by the University of Exeter Medical School has looked at a wide range of areas relating to volunteers and non-volunteers and found that there was around a 20 per cent reduction in mortality among people who spent some of their time volunteering for various causes and activities.

The causes for the benefits appear to be wide and not exact. Some of the reasons were attributed to the fact that volunteers spend more time out of the house. It was also interesting that while people generally volunteer to give some assistance to society, they like to feel they are also getting something back themselves, perhaps  through companionship or adding routine to their normal life. Interestingly, for volunteers who felt they were not getting much back from their efforts, the positive impact on their life was limited. Also, volunteers who tried to do too much also did not achieve the same benefit.

Now a new report from VSO shows that three out of five (60%) of retirees who have professional skills and experience say they feel these are being wasted since retirement and nearly half of retired adults feel less valued by society since retiring.

This has led to the VSO launching a new campaign urging older people to volunteer overseas.

Many of us will have heard of the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). It began in 1958, when a Hampshire couple recruited and sent 16 volunteers to teach English overseas in response to a request from the Bishop of Portsmouth.

Today the VSO works in over 30 countries around the world assisting in a range of projects especially in very poor areas to help local people and organizations. Volunteers work with local groups that serve poor people, they help give children a future through assisting with schools and education; they assist in hospitals; they train people in skills to earn a living - the range of work undertaken is huge. To date over 40,000 people have volunteered to help with The VSO.  Most of the placements last between one and two years, though the charity does have occasional six-month voluntary job roles.The VSO says older volunteers are particularly valued for their life skills, their patience, their self-assurance and their resourcefulness.The charity is especially looking for older people who have some special skills to offer such as medical professionals, perhaps people with nursing experience, or teachers, community or social development, business advisers, people with good knowledge of agriculture, animals and natural resources, IT and fund raisers.  Angle Salt, director of VSO UK, says that the experience and skills of retirees are very much required for their work overseas tackling poverty.“VSO volunteers share their skills in a way that leaves a lasting legacy,” she said.

Volunteering doesn’t just change the lives of the people in the communities where we work. It changes the lives of our volunteers. People who have volunteered for VSO say it gives them a better perspective on life. They also say that the best thing about volunteering is the feeling of making a difference.”

Lorraine Dodge volunteered with VSO in the rural area of Kaski in Nepal, after taking early retirement from teaching in Britain. Lorraine said:  

“My teaching skills were put to great use in Nepal. I worked with head teachers to motivate individual staff, and helped to improve education for Nepali children. After retirement was exactly the right time for me to volunteer with VSO, as I had accrued so much experience at home. When I came home after two years, I felt more valued. Volunteering overseas has given me a new focus in retirement.”

To find out more about volunteering overseas with VSO, visit


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