As retirement approaches, many find themselves pondering the activities and social interactions they will choose to fill their time, as hours previously spent in their paid careers will now be unstructured and free. Here’s why even a few hours of time spent volunteering can help you stay involved and promote better health.
Not only is volunteering a proactive way to connect with your community and your passions, it can greatly improve your longevity and quality of life. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteering provides a sense of accomplishment that aides in beneficial mental health, provides a sense of purpose, leads to better physical health, and strongly improves life satisfaction, especially for retired seniors.
The Corporation also found that those who volunteer have lower levels of depression in part due to the physical and mental health benefits of a volunteer lifestyle. One study completed in 1999 recorded a 44% lower mortality rate over a 5-year period in older persons who volunteered with two or more organizations as opposed to those who did not volunteer. Another study by Merrill Lynch concluded that 85% of retirees who volunteer have formed new friendships by doing so.
“When individuals volunteer, they not only help their community but also experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or lower rates of depression”
– the Corporation for National & Community Service
Encore careers for pay also contribute to health and well-being, with one study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showing that those who continue working even part time after retirement have fewer major diseases or disabilities than those who quit work completely. A full or part time encore career or following a passion for entrepreneurship can also give the sense of purpose that makes volunteering so well known as an integral part of longevity.
Before deciding where and when to volunteer, assess your goals. US News states that asking a few simple questions can align your desires and expectations for a fulfilling experience.
- Why are you volunteering? Determine why you want to volunteer. It could be anything from making new friends to finding new interests to sharing what you love, but make sure you are doing it for reasons that are right for you.
- About what are you passionate? Retirement is a time to follow your passions, and there are often more volunteer opportunities around than you initially realize. Ask local fine arts venues, community organizations, parks and recreation departments, or your favorite non-profit.
- Does your availability match the commitment? Be realistic about your schedule. Many organizations are highly flexible and if one organization does not work, the right organization for you can be found. You have the right to decide how much time you should give. Committing to a schedule that does not work well for you creates stress and dissatisfaction.
If you would rather start a new endeavor through an encore career for pay, whether part or full time, an encore career can also help you ReINVENT your next chapter.
Volunteering or starting an encore career is a great, fun way to stay connected and is vital to mental well-being, health, and a vibrant legacy. Start the next part of your journey today!
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