Discovering and Rediscovering in Retirement - Volunteering


Cary Sweeney
January 2022

The pandemic has put a pause on many of our beloved activities. One in particular is volunteering. Volunteer activity was interrupted for many as organizations scrambled to put safety protocols in place or figure out how to shift to virtual volunteer service.  Now going into our second year of the pandemic, many organizations are more prepared having established new policies for maintaining safety amid the risks of Covid-19. Most have activities that are physically distanced, and with masks and vaccination required. Many activities have been moved to be offered remotely. That said, if you don’t think organizers are not taking enough precautions to keep the health of volunteers safe, you should let them know you feel unsafe and leave or not return.

If you are considering volunteering your time to help out in your community (virtually or in person), below are some additional things to keep in mind. 

First, volunteering for just as little as two hours a week has been shown to help decrease risk of depression, contribute towards staying physically and mentally active, and reduce stress levels. 

Be Curious

If you’re not sure what volunteer activity you would like to do, be curious. Ask yourself, what are some interests you want to discover? How do you enjoy spending your free time? What gets you excited?  If you struggle with identifying what gets you excited, think about what anchors might keep you from moving forward.

Looking for Ideas?

Maybe there’s something you are interested in but not sure what you’d like. Volunteer Match is a free powerful online tool set up which allows you to search on specific types of activities and it will  send you a customized list of “hand-picked just for you” volunteer activities. You may also filter by “virtual opportunities.”

In observance of Martin Luther King Day on January 17, there is a Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. To find out activities in your community, visit the Day of Service website. Additionally, there are many opportunities to join a board and many are meeting virtually - making participation easier, especially if you plan to travel.

The Retirement Center has a listing of volunteer opportunities on campus, locally, and nationally. You might contact them and find out how they have adapted their protocols to keep volunteers safe during the pandemic.

Whether you have volunteered in the past, or this is something you have more time for while travel plans have changed, start with something you enjoy and test it out first to see if you’ll like it.  Offer your time for 1-2 hours a week or for one event without overcommitting.  If you don’t like it, move on. If you do like it, you can decide to commit more time. 

Resources for Volunteering Amid Covid-19

Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults During COVID-19 Pandemic
The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults

The Pandemic Changed The World Of 'Voluntourism.' Some Folks Like The New Way Better

Virtual Volunteering Still Offers Benefits
The New York Times

9 Tips for Successful Volunteering During COVID-19
Johns Hopkins

Publication date: 
January 10, 2022
Publication type: 
Journal Article