So, you are retired, financially solvent and — finally — have a little time on your hands. If you’re like many people, you are in search of ways to be involved and to have a meaningful impact in your community.
Here are some ways to get started exploring your new role:
1. Volunteer at a school
Public schools, in particular, are chronically underfunded and in need of volunteers for a wide array of tasks. There are always kids and teachers who need some help. (To work with kids you will likely need to agree to a background check for obvious reasons.) Here are a few roles to explore:
- Approach your local school, or school district, and ask where you can help as a tutor: math, science and English lead the list.
- Become a crossing guard. This is a critical position, especially in high-traffic areas and communities that have early rush hours.
- Every school can use good mentors. Perhaps you were a software engineer and you find out from school authorities that the field inspires some students. Maybe there is even a club you can supervise.
2. Work at a hospital
According to the American Hospital Association, most hospitals require volunteers to go through a vetting process. This usually includes a background check along with an interview and proof of up-to-date immunizations.
Volunteers receive thorough training for the particular positions and annual refresher courses are common, the AHA says. Some typical volunteer roles include:
- Visiting patients to see if they would like to talk, especially those who don’t have family.
- Working at the gift shop; most are partly operated by volunteers.
- Helping to deliver books, newspapers and other reading materials to patients.
- Assisting in blood drives and health drives.
- Providing office help.
3. Get involved in politics
Volunteer for a political crusade, grassroots organization or political action committee. You can also work for a candidate you support. Other ways to get involved include:
- Contact your local city or town hall to see if it has committees that need your help.
- Work on a board of directors. Find a board in your area on almost any topic.
- Run for local office.
4. Help on a hotline
There are suicide hotlines in almost every city, manned by volunteers. This is obviously an important — even life-saving — way to help. Here are some other places to volunteer:
- Help lines for children in crisis.
- An organization called the National Eating Disorder Association has a help line for those suffering from anorexia and/or bulimia.
- Help lines for people who just need to hear another voice.
5. Contact animal shelters and humane societies
Local animal shelters and humane societies need volunteers to care for animals, organize fundraising events, perform administrative tasks, or help rescue pets in the wake of floods, fires and other natural disasters. In addition:
- Pet owners can have their pets certified through pet therapy training programs, enabling them to visit patients in nursing homes, children’s hospitals and hospices.
- You can walk dogs for people who are shut-ins or otherwise unable to take care of their pets.
- Your local shelter might need someone to foster animals until they can find a permanent home.
6. Check with AARP
AARP has a page on its website for volunteers: Volunteer — Share Your Experience in Your Community. Some options AARP suggests include helping older drivers stay safe and improve their driving skills, and working to end hunger.
7. Become a docent
Many organizations offer docent programs, including:
- Learning institutions
- Botanical gardens
- Equestrian parks
8. Lift a hammer for Habitat for Humanity
The organization, which addresses the issue of housing for the poor, gives you the opportunity to find a local chapter. Ways to help include:
- U.S. Volunteer Program: If you are willing to travel to its headquarters in Americus, Georgia, and work for a minimum of a month, there are several departments that can use your help.
- Disaster Corps: Lend your professional skills and expertise to affected Habitat affiliates in post-disaster areas.
9. Help Meal on Wheels
The organization, which ensures that shut-ins and the poor have enough to eat, has a web page to help you find chapters in your area.
Spend part of your day not only delivering the meals, but offering an ear to those who might not have everyday human contact.
10. Check out your local YMCA
The Y offers endless ways to give your community a boost. Perhaps you want to motivate young people to develop education skills and community relationships. Or maybe you hope to help adults to live in a healthier way.
You can also coach sports teams and teach classes.
11. Join a choir
Former journalist Henry David Rosso and his choir have sung at hospices, shelters and correctional institutes. The correctional institutes made the strongest impressions on my former colleague, who recalls:
“There were tears all around. One year, at the first dorm it took a little longer to set up the sound equipment and our director looked up at the inmates and apologized and one of the inmates yelled back, ‘That’s OK, we’re not going anywhere.'”
Do you know of ways that retirees can become part of their community or contribute to its improvement? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.