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Why more seniors are becoming volunteers

April 24, 2015

Sometimes after people retire, they find themselves searching for a second calling. Perhaps its a part-time job in a field theyre passionate about, a new hobby or a beautiful senior care community to call home.

For an increasing number of retirees, volunteering is the ideal way to spend their newfound free time. While many of these people give back to their communities or donate time to domestic organizations, older people have grown more interested in volunteering overseas.

Find out why people decide to move abroad after retiring for a few rewarding years of volunteer service.

"Many organizations seek out volunteers over the age of 50."

The basics
When professor Benjamin J. Lough and doctoral student Xiaoling Xiang, researchers at the University of Illinois, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they found that the number of people over the age of 50 who volunteer in foreign countries has grown noticeably in the past few years. According to the results of a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 1 million Americans go abroad for volunteer work each year, mostly between the ages of 15 and 24. However, theres a new generation of helpers lining up for adventure. Most stints on international volunteer trips last about three months. Its common for older adults to become involved in projects abroad through religious organizations. 

Many organizations, including the U.S. Peace Corps, seek out volunteers that are over age 50 to join. The newly-retired workforce holds a lot of potential for international travel. People tend to have fewer time-restricting responsibilities like raising children and full-time jobs. If youve dreamed of traveling but dont want to spend your life savings seeing the world, volunteer work is the perfect solution. Additionally, older volunteers typically have advanced skill sets that are extremely valuable around the world because they have a lifetime of work experience, especially compared to fresh college graduates.

Is the Peace Corps for you?
If you peruse the Peace Corps website, youll find volunteer openings across several continents, including Asia and South America. There are different skill areas you can search for, whether you have experience in the classroom or enjoy working outside with your hands, as well as specific countries. This will give you an idea of the vast array of options you have for travel and exploration.

Before people can be assigned a country, they must have a health examination to discuss pre-existing conditions or necessary preventative care. For older volunteers, this can play a big role in determining where you move because there needs to be proper medical care available. You have to pay for these initial medical tests, but once your service begins, youll be covered under the organizations health insurance.

Share your talents with budding musicians in schools.

You might wonder if youll feel comfortable and fit in with colleagues that are much younger than you. Although more seniors are volunteering, youll still be traveling and living with many people who are in their 20s. Its an excellent opportunity to build unique and rewarding relationships with this blossoming generation. Perhaps youre a kid at heart and you barely notice the age difference, or maybe you become something of a foster parent for these people who are also missing their families. Speaking of family, your loved ones can visit you during vacation weeks and check out the exciting adventures youve been up to.

Should you stay local?
If you dont want to travel so far to volunteer, the Americorps Senior Corps might be a better option for you. This organization sets older adults up with foster grandchildren who need guidance, mentoring or tutoring. According to the website, volunteers may help kids learn to read, take children out for fun activities or assist young mothers as they learn the ropes. Volunteers can work between 15 and 40 hours a week in a range of locations such as hospitals, schools and daycare centers. Some positions even include a monthly stipend.