Breaking Stereotypes: Trends in Volunteering During Retirement

By Ann Echols
February, 2024


Centre County Gazette - February 28, 2024

Centre County Gazette | Gazette Community

By Ann Echols, Executive Director of Volunteer Centre County

When you think of retirement, you may think of traveling, spending more time with family, reading more books, or just plain taking it easy. These activities are certainly desirable, but not all retirees feel satisfied with these activities alone.

Volunteerism is a great way to enhance retirement. It allows you to give back to a cause that is near and dear to you or even to a cause your friends and family have personal ties to. Volunteering also allows you to meet new people who are of like mind to you and do things that you enjoy doing. It helps you as much as it does others.

Volunteerism is about enriching your life while bringing joy to others. It increases the joys offered by greater leisure since the demands of volunteerism on one’s own time can be relatively low, while the benefits in return can be significantly high. The result is a fuller, more well-rounded life. Here are three trends that speak to this.

Retirees have many valuable skills to share. These skills may be repurposed for a new use in a volunteer position, where the expectations of what we give may just be for a few hours each week or month, or in a flexible capacity. As the silver tsunami rolls in with more than 11,200 Americans turning age 65 every day, according to estimates from the Retirement Income Institute at the Alliance for Lifetime Income, the trend for skills-based volunteering is on the rise. Most people do not want to completely stop using their skill sets when they retire.

Another trend is volunteering while traveling. By 2054, about one in four Americans will be aged 65 or older. Apart from general travel, volunteer tourism is increasing in demand. However, use caution as some of these opportunities may not be ethical. Voluntourism might have good intentions but may not result in real change for the community being served or may cause the volunteer hardship.

A third trend is that retirees are more drawn to working with younger generations than ever before. This is because younger people expose others to new technology skills. They also often offer differing insights on how to interpret life and the world around them, which older generations find stimulating. Intergenerational volunteering is growing in demand.

Lastly, there are stereotypes surrounding retirement that are false. These could be things like life becoming all about play or that a sense of purpose is lost in one’s ability to contribute meaningfully to the world at large. Trends in volunteerism show otherwise, with demands for skills-based opportunities, motivations to do good while traveling and activities with younger generations being sought out more. Finding your way when retirement hits can be daunting, yet it can also be refreshing. Consider volunteering — with the right fit, you’ll feel the enthusiasm!