Not all volunteer projects are created equally-some demand far more time and effort than others, while others may seem more important or directly linked to the community welfare. As volunteers, seniors may have unique needs and considerations in choosing volunteer projects and activities to become involved in. Here are some suggestions and tips for seniors in choosing the best volunteer projects:
Passion is important when it comes to volunteering. The more attached you are to a cause; the more likely you are to stick with it and be interested and involved. Passionate volunteers make the best help for any project or agency. If you are just signing up because you think you “should” or because you have friends who are involved, try to find something you can really get excited about instead.
Keep in mind what your motivation is for getting involved in volunteer work and what you’d like to both offer and get back from your involvement. This will be your guide in finding the right match. But, you’ll also want to find a project or organization that is “senior friendly”-one where seniors are welcome and treated well as volunteers and where the environment is set up to accommodate a senior working as a volunteer. Not every agency will have a culture that encourages and supports seniors as volunteers and you will have to decide if you want to work there anyway-or if you’d rather find a more comfortable environment.
Decide if you want a long-term commitment, or would rather volunteer on a more flexible, short-term basis. Some volunteer projects-like special events and fundraisers can have a very definite schedule. You know how long you’ll be working and when the project ends. Other projects can be more indefinite-if you are working in a program or helping deliver meals or provide a service, once you get started, you may find you are expected to continue indefinitely. Your lifestyle and other commitments and activities will help dictate what you can be available for in terms of a volunteer commitment.
Remember that just because you begin working as a volunteer, it doesn’t mean you have to continue indefinitely-chat with your supervisor or volunteer coordinator periodically to make sure that your talents are being utilized and you are happy in your work. Otherwise, you may be able to find a better-suited job or it may be time to move on. Additionally, your needs may change (your health, time constraints, etc.)-and you’ll need to see if the volunteer work can change to accommodate your evolving life.
The important consideration for doing volunteer work as a senior is to find someplace where you feel valued and useful, and where you feel passionately committed to the work being done. The environment needs to be accessible and accommodating and the volunteer work should give you the opportunity to share and contribute.