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The hustle and bustle of working full-time can be extraordinarily exciting, challenging, and uplifting or stressful, draining, and time-wasting.  Usually, there is a combination of all six of those feelings during your full-time working years.  Once you retire though, you cross the finish line of your full-time working years with maybe a party to send you off.  At the end of the day, however, you go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and realize there is nothing waiting for you on the other side of retirement.

“Well, this is strange,” you might think.

You have a fresh, squeaky clean slate staring you in the face, begging the question of you, “What are you going to fill this canvas with?” That leaves you with a few new questions that you may not have considered before:

  • “What do I do now?”
  • “What are my hobbies?”
  • “Do I have hobbies?”
  • “Should I travel?”
  • “Do I have the money to travel?”
  • “Am I floundering without having structure in my life, even though it was sometimes stressful?”
  • “How do I handle this new type of anxiety?”
  • “What are my options?”
  • “Am I alone?”

The list of questions can be endless and, oftentimes, daunting, troublesome, and depressing.  One thing we recommend for retirees is to volunteer to help you answer many of these questions in a truly positive and encouraging manner.

But, why should I want to volunteer?

We’ve all heard it said before that volunteers are generally happier than non-volunteers.  However, you might think to yourself, “Is a small increase in happiness enough to make me want to dedicate hours of my precious time to volunteering?” Let’s turn to science to help us answer this questions.  With the average age of retirement being between the ages of sixty-two and sixty-five, the Corporation for National and Community Service shares the following information in their review of recent research in 2007:

“In examining the volunteer habits of individuals from four age groups (55-64, 65-74, 75-84, and 85 and older), one study looked for predictors of mortality five years later based on the frequency of volunteering.

The study found that those who volunteered with two or more organizations experienced 44 percent lower mortality rates over a five-year period than those elderly persons who did not volunteer, even after adjusting for other factors such as age, health habits, and social support.

“Indeed, volunteering was found to contribute more to lower mortality rates than high religious involvement or perceived social support. (Oman et al., 1999)” (emphasis mine)

The report goes on to say that “Individuals must meet a ‘volunteering threshold’ in order to receive the positive health outcomes from volunteering; that is, they need to commit a considerable amount of time–or at least one or two hours a week–to volunteer activities.”

That means you only have to volunteer for four to eight hours per month.  That is equivalent to one part-time shift or one full-time work day.  That’s it.  Thinking about how easy it is to gain these incredible health benefits can leave you with this resounding statement in your mind:

“This is easy! I can do this!”

So, what is our recommendation?

  • If you are a retiree looking to improve your health, happiness, and life satisfaction, and  decrease the likelihood of passing away in the next five years, we highly recommend you volunteer for one to two hours per week to start off with.

Offering yourself limits on your volunteer involvement by saying you’ll only volunteer for one-two hours per week for the next six months, say, will help you to bypass decision fatigue, gain confidence in your abilities, help others, and give you something meaningful to engage with and feel passionate about during your many years of retirement.  Who said retirement has to be boring? So, what are you waiting for? Get volunteering!

Did you like this blog? You may be interested in this one, as well: “3 Reasons Volunteering Isn’t Just About the Needy; it’s About You, Too.” Click on the link to read more!