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The Benefits and Value of Volunteering in Retirement

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Retirement is a significant milestone in anyone’s life. For many, it means the end of working life and the beginning of a new chapter in your adventure. It can bring freedom and more time for hobbies, travel, and family. But for some, it can also bring uncertainty, a loss of purpose, and feelings of isolation. However, this stage of life doesn’t have to be the end of meaning. While retirees can do lots of things to fill their time, many retirees find a new sense of purpose and fulfillment through volunteerism – whether paid or unpaid, seeking community outreach, or even caring for family members. Let’s explore what it means to have a volunteer retirement lifestyle, find happiness through volunteer work, and how retirement can open the door to positively impacting the world.

An 85-year Harvard study on happiness and retirement found that the biggest challenge in retirement is not financial but social isolation and loneliness. The study tracked the lives of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1938 to 1940 and followed up with them regularly to assess their physical and mental health and overall happiness. Participants with strong relationships and social connections in retirement were happier and healthier than those who did not and emphasized the importance of maintaining social relations and developing new ones in retirement to promote happiness and well-being.

Exploring a Volunteer Retirement

A volunteer retirement lifestyle means dedicating your time, skills, and energy to volunteer work during retirement. This doesn’t mean that it must take up your entire calendar. It means that retirees are making purposeful decisions about how and when they spend their time. They are staying active, engaged, and productive while helping others and impacting their communities. Volunteer work can take many forms. It may involve mentoring young people, serving meals to people experiencing homelessness, helping at a local animal shelter, or teaching adults to read. The opportunities are endless, and the benefits are numerous.  Let’s look at some of the personal gains of volunteering.

Improve well-being. Retirees who offer service to their communities report higher well-being and life satisfaction levels than those who do not. According to the study by Age Wave on “Giving in Retirement: America’s Longevity Bonus,” volunteering is associated with better mental and physical health, lowers the risk of depression, and helps prevent cognitive decline.

Social connections. By volunteering, retirees can build new relationships and stay connected with their communities, which can help combat social isolation. Giving time can be a great way to meet new people and form friendships. Working towards a common goal with other like-minded individuals creates a sense of camaraderie and social connection often lacking in retirement.

Enhance a sense of purpose. According to “The Health and Retirement Study” by the National Institute on Aging, volunteering can help retirees maintain or build a new sense of determination. Giving time can provide retirees with a new type of fulfillment by contributing to causes that they are passionate about. Since many retirees struggle with losing identity and purpose after leaving the workforce, volunteering can fill that void and offer a new sense of purpose and meaning.

Grab opportunities for personal growth. Volunteer work can also be a way to learn new skills and stay mentally sharp by being exposed to new experiences. Charitable organizations often challenge retirees to learn new things and step out of their comfort zone, which can help keep their minds sharp and engaged. Retirement is a new beginning of sorts; volunteer work can be a great way to try new things and explore new interests.

Whether you’re planning for or are plunging into your retirement journey, consider what impact you want to make on the world post-work life. If you’ve always been interested in a particular cause or issue, retirement can be a great time to get involved and make a difference. Whether volunteering with a local organization or working on an international aid project, your efforts can significantly impact the community around you while also reaping the benefits of improved mental and physical health, cognitive function, and happiness scores. Treehouse Wealth helps our clients navigate this next stage of life. Have questions about how your wealth, health, and retirement happiness are connected to your financial plan? We’ll help you navigate this next adventure.


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