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Planning Retirement Online

Guide to Volunteering


After they leave their full-time job and 'retire', many people choose to volunteer as part of their active retirement. Retirement, in the 21st Century is not an end, it's a change and the start of a new phase of life in which many people want to use the skills they have built up during their working and personal life to help others. In 2013, a survey by the Royal Voluntary Service found that two out of five people over the age of 60 volunteer. Most (83%) said they help because they believe volunteering for a charity is important. Half said it helps them have a purpose in life.

As well as the desire to ‘give something back’, there are a number of other reasons and they are mainly concerned with those positive things that we have gained from work over the years (friendship, teamwork, status, a sense of belonging, achievement and so on).

So, if we wish to volunteer, there are some things to consider. First, we should think about what it is that work has given us during our life, both positive and negative. We've mentioned some of the positive things above but there may well be others that are relevant. In terms of negatives, we may think of office politics, bureaucracy, routine, constant change etc. Then, before we plunge into voluntary work, we should think about which sort of roles and which sort of organisation are likely to give us the positives and eliminate the negatives. On the other hand, we may want to volunteer for a role that is the opposite of the role we carried out in paid employment.

We should also think about what kind of lifestyle we want in retirement. If we want to be able to go off on holiday at the drop of a hat, or want complete flexibility for some other reason, we shouldn't accept a position that requires us to be available at set times of the day, week or month. Most people who do volunteer are conscientious and caring and we don't want to let people down. If we suddenly decide that we want to go off somewhere, we find ourselves in a dilemma, wondering how to solve the problem, and give ourselves as much stress as we had at work!

Guide to Voluntary Work Links

What you can do

Where to Look for it

Volunteering Overseas

Volunteers Required

If, on the other hand, we like structure and routine then a position that requires us to have a regular pattern to life will suit us well. Similarly, we should think about what it is that we want from retirement and, in particular, from voluntary work and choose something that will give us it. It might be excitement, the chance to work alone, the chance to work with others, the opportunity to be creative, the ability to make decisions or whatever.

We should also appreciate that, depending on the type of role we want, we may have to have a criminal records check and/or a medical check. It's quite reasonable for these checks to be required and, for the vast majority of people, they represent no problem and very little inconvenience. They are, therefore, nothing to worry about and should not put us off volunteering for the role that we want.

Once you have thought about all the issues, then you can go and look for a role in the voluntary sector. This Guide will help with that process, so before you do anything else, read the other pages and then start your search. There will be a job out there that will match your wishes and requirements. However, you might need some patience and persistence in order to find the perfect role. The Guide will hopefully make the search a bit easier.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.

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