Here's how retirees can give back with their skills

·Senior Columnist
·4 min read

For all the talk of retirees ‘unretiring’ these days, you may very well be perfectly at ease with the notion of stepping out of the paid workforce.

You’re “evolving” as Serena Williams so gracefully refers to her retirement from her tennis career.

I love that replacement word for retirement. I’ve grappled for years to come up with the right moniker. She’s nailed it. One way that the evolvers I know are approaching this next chapter of their lives is to find ways to make an impact on the world. They are embracing volunteering for a cause that resonates with them and are consciously careful about creating flexibility when it comes to the time they commit and focusing on the value they can bring.

And that’s a win all around. Many nonprofits don't have deep pockets to bring experienced workers on board and welcome volunteers with specific skills from accounting to medicine to marketing. And retired professionals are hunting for ways to remain engaged mentally, connect with a social network, and give back to causes near and dear to their heart.

“I’m seeing a rise in the desire for skill-based volunteering opportunities,” Robert Laura, a retirement coach and founder of the Retirement Coaches Association, told Yahoo Money.

“Retirees want to help others and feel they can have a bigger impact with their skills rather than just money, food, or clothing donations. It also helps replace their work identity and fill their time, but more so, fills them up and makes them feel good in terms of being relevant and needed and connected and appreciated.”

Results of a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study show that volunteerism among older adults doesn't just strengthen communities, but enriches lives by strengthening bonds to others and helping people feel a sense of purpose and well-being. ( Photo Credit: Getty Creative)
Results of a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study show that volunteerism among older adults doesn't just strengthen communities, but enriches lives by strengthening bonds to others and helping people feel a sense of purpose and well-being. ( Photo Credit: Getty Creative)

The health benefit of volunteering

Plus, it’s good for their health. Older adults who volunteer for as little as two hours per week can substantially lower their risk of early death, become more physically active, and improve their sense of well-being compared with those who don't volunteer, according to a study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study findings were based on interviews and surveys from nearly 13,000 participants in the Health and Retirement Study of a diverse cohort of U.S. adults over 50.

“Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn't just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others and helping us feel a sense of purpose and well-being," according to co-author Eric Kim, research scientist in the Chan School's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Purpose is a key piece of a happy retirement, according to “Longevity and the New Journey of Retirement,” a recent survey by Edward Jones and Age Wave, a think tank and consulting firm, that canvassed more than 11,000 North American adults 45 and older, largely pre-retirees and retirees.

The study, which focuses on four pillars of living well in retirement — health, family, purpose, and finances —shines a spotlight on the significance of purpose and contribution post-work.

But as Ken Dychtwald, co-founder of Age Wave, told Yahoo Money in a recent interview. “There's a lot of confusion and disorientation and a lot of desire for guidance including ‘where can I volunteer in a way that suits my skills and interests?”

There are myriad ways to find a volunteer opportunity that aligns with skills. Here are ways retirees are seeking out a good match.

Former employers: To encourage their retirees to volunteer and for nonprofits to offer opportunities for them to do so, Pfizer, for instance, provides $1,000 grants to nonprofits where retirees volunteer as long as the retiree volunteers for at least six months and serves an average of six hours per month for a total of 72 hours in a calendar year.

IBM retirees who volunteer for a minimum of eight hours a month for five months can apply for cash grants of up to $1,000 for their favorite nonprofit. IBM Retirees can also find volunteer opportunities via their former employer.

Nonprofits already on the giving list. Look for volunteering openings with groups you're already familiar with as a donor.

Local nonprofit matchmakers. Many big cities and states have connectors for volunteer opportunities. For example, there's Spark the Change Colorado and NYC Service in New York City.

Skills-based volunteer boards. AARP's Create the Good and VolunteerMatch are places to research nonprofit projects. Skill-based volunteer and paid positions can be searched via Taproot Foundation, Executive Service Corps-US, and Idealist. The federal government's RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program)—one of the biggest volunteer networks in the country for people 55 and over—has deep interview vetting method to make sure the match works.

Catchafire is also a good source for screening volunteer openings that demand specific professional skills. Their motto: “Where talent meets purpose.”

Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

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