Independence & Fulfillment Article:

Now that you’ve time on your hands, lend one

by Pam McGaffin

You have 65 years of accumulated life and job skills, and, now that you're retired, you also have the time. Why not put that wealth of experience to good use and volunteer?

Opportunities abound for retirees who want to give back to their communities and help others, according to the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 40 not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults.

You just need to know how to find organizations that can use your unpaid talent. The right volunteer job - one that dovetails with your background or takes you down a fulfilling new path - could be a few computer clicks away or a close as your daily newspaper.

When you do get out there, you'll find yourself in good company.

The estimated 26 million seniors who volunteer make up about half of the nation's total volunteer force. According to a recent national survey, nearly 44 percent of those 55 and older volunteer at least once a year, and more than 36 percent have volunteered within the past month. They give an average of 4.4 hours a week, contributing the equivalent of $77.2 billion to non-profit organizations and causes.

This willingness to serve reflects a population that is living longer and staying healthier. Today's older adults are redefining retirement, viewing it not as an ending but as another beginning.

For retirees looking for social stimulation and a sense of purpose post career, volunteering is a great way to meet people and pursue interests, both new and old.

Here are some pointers from the Healthy Aging Partnership for those who want to donate their time and talent:

  • Ask yourself questions, including how many hours you want to devote to volunteering and how your interests and skills can be used. If you are a former teacher, you might consider tutoring schoolchildren, for example.
  • Check out the AARP Web site at www.aarp.org. AARP, one of HAP's partner agencies, offers a Web site powered by Volunteer Match, to help people find volunteer opportunities in their communities. AARP also relies on volunteers to teach driver safety, help older adults with tax returns and provide other services.
  • The American Red Cross/King and Kitsap Counties also relies heavily on volunteers for a wide variety of functions - some 2,300 of them every year! Check out opportunities at www.seattleredcross.org.
  • Volunteer through your faith community and/or look in your local newspaper. Many papers have a regular section listing volunteer needs in the area.
  • If you are considering becoming involved in a particular group or cause, talk to its volunteers and find out how the organization trains and supports them.
  • Use volunteer work to explore a new interest or even start a second career. Tell the organization's volunteer director what you can contribute and what you hope to learn then keep track of your achievements.

For more information about volunteering and other issues related to life as an older adult, call HAP's free and confidential help line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464). To learn more about HAP and its 40 partner agencies, visit the Web site at www.4elders.org.

The Healthy Aging Partnership is supported by its partner agencies, including its leading sponsors: Public Health Seattle & King County and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.