A Guide to Finding Volunteer Work as an Older Adult

Volunteering is a great way to curb loneliness and make a positive contribution to your community. Plus, scores of research has shown volunteers report numerous mental, physical and spiritual health benefits. Um, sign us up!
A Guide to Finding Volunteer Work as an Older Adult

So, you’re thinking about volunteering. Welcome to the most rewarding job of all! Right now, more than 6 million Australians volunteer their time, skills and experience, making a massive contribution to their local communities. And whether you’re new to this or a volunteer veteran looking for your next big move, there are plenty of opportunities for people of all ages, skill sets and backgrounds just waiting to be filled all over Australia. From tutoring to cooking to providing admin support, there are plenty of ways to get involved, and hey – you might just see an increase in your physical and mental wellbeing, make new friends and increase life satisfaction in the process.

Why volunteer?

Whether it’s by helping organisations, charities, councils, or Government bodies, older volunteers often feel a great sense of pride in their volunteer work. It’s common for volunteers to report the following benefits:

  • General enjoyment of the work they do and a sense of purpose
  • A greater sense of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Feeling less lonely or isolated
  • Improved mental health
  • An active mind
  • A chance to learn new skills and explore different kinds of career opportunities
  • A sense of connection to their community 
  • A feeling that their work makes up part of their identity
  • Gives a sense of professional identity that can continue post-retirement

Ways to volunteer 

Now is the time to put your interests first (literally) and sign up for a cause that you’re actually interested in and excited by. 

  • If you have a green thumb, why not help out with a local community garden project.
  • Love sports? You could volunteer at a local sports club.
  • Interested in history, arts and culture? Look for positions at a museum or heritage site, or help out your local council. 
  • Alternatively, you could also put your name and skills forward at a religious organisation of your choice, like a synagogue, church or mosque.

Narrow down your search and find your niche interest to ensure that the right opportunities come your way. You’ll probably find that once you do this, all the right things will fall into place.

Need help igniting that spark? Here are some great starting points:

Ideas for older adults with mobility issues or conditions to volunteer

If you live with a disability, a health condition or an injury that impacts your mobility, there are still plenty of ways to get involved. You could try clerical work at your local council, or mentoring, tutoring or offering professional expertise if you have it.

It’s worth discussing with your chosen organisation/s what kind of work you’d be comfortable and happy to do, and then letting them find a good fit for you. For example, if you have a health condition and can only work for a few hours at a time or on a non-committal basis (like once a month), communicate what your preferences are, and they’ll work with you to find a role that suits your lifestyle and ideal work times, environment and conditions.

Mentoring or training young professionals

If you’re semi-retired, retired or you delve in occasional consulting work, why not mentor young people looking to get involved in your respective industry? The beauty of the volunteer framework is that everyone has something unique to offer. Whether it’s legal, technical or artistic knowledge, for example, there are so many opportunities for volunteers with a variety of skills, interests and life experiences to help young people who are entering the workforce. 

Make a difference in your local community or city council

Local councils require volunteers for a range of community services, like:

  • Home delivery of meals
  • Delivering library books to older people
  • Acting as tour guides and reading buddies
  • Walking dogs at pounds
  • Administrative support for council cultural facilities, festivals and events 

There really is a role for everyone! 

Support a community organisation

If you’re interested in protecting the environment, volunteers can help with local conservation initiatives like tree-planting days or beach clean-up days.

If food is more your thing, there are several food rescue organisations or soup kitchens that would appreciate an extra pair of hands.

If there’s a cause that you’re particularly passionate about, like supporting asylum seekers or raising awareness of a specific medical condition, you could use your professional skills to assist a community organisation make progress in that area.

Help out at an animal shelter 

Love animals? There are so many local animal shelters in Australia who are in need of volunteers. Responsibilities include dog walking, animal training, general admin, community outreach and more.

Get involved with your grandchildren's school

If you have grandchildren, there will likely be plenty of opportunities to volunteer at their school. Common tasks include listening to children practise their reading and volunteering in the canteen. Supporting your grandchildren’s education can be very rewarding, not to mention seeing their smiling faces and spending quality time with them.

Final things to consider before saying yes

  • How much time am I able to commit?
  • What kind of skills can I offer?
  • Do my values align with this person, group, organisation or charity?
  • Am I excited by this opportunity?
  • Do I feel comfortable completing these duties? (This is especially important if there is a lot of responsibility involved, like if you’re managing a team).

Other things to note

  • A council may require you to undergo a Police Check before you commence your volunteering role.
  • Some roles may require a driver’s licence. (This will be specified in the volunteer description).
  • If you are going to be in contact with children, you will likely need a Working With Children Check. Don’t let the admin put you off though - they are simple to complete and free for volunteers.
  • Always check that relevant training and ongoing support are provided to volunteers.

Wrap up

Volunteering is incredibly rewarding and the benefits are truly remarkable. To get the most out of your volunteering experience, here are our top 5 tips:

  1. Remember to choose something that interests and motivates you. 
  2. Don’t overextend yourself or overcommit. Only say yes to the hours/days/shifts that work for your lifestyle.
  3. Do your research on the organisation to find out what they’re all about and to ensure that your values align.
  4. Communicate with your chosen organisation. Be transparent about what your goals and interests are, so they can match you to the right role.
  5. Ask lots of questions before you say yes.

And of course, have fun! 

Find out more here

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