This time I want to talk about volunteering, whilst many of us will continue to work, well into later life, it doesn’t have to be paid work. If money isn’t a key driver, volunteering may fill the gap from work.

Volunteering can also help us to develop the skills needed for a change of career and build our confidence before a return to a paid job. There are many organisations which only exist through their network of supporters. It can also be a time to ‘give back’ and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Volunteering can include more involvement with the local community, such as becoming a parish councillor or school governor, or to campaign for a cause. As I write this book, I’ve moved home and I’m now within walking distance of a nature-focused art gallery where I plan to volunteer later this year.

From volunteering, you get the same physical and mental benefits as in a paid work, and it can also help you to live longer. According to research, this is true if you are volunteering to help others; interestingly, the research found that it didn’t have the same impact when people were doing it for more selfish reasons.

There are both personal and wider benefits to voluntary working, such as expressing values, social benefits, career benefits, escaping negative feelings, learning, increasing levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy, life satisfaction, and enhanced integration with communities.  Research identified that people volunteer to help others (83%), to feel useful and productive (65%), and ‘to fulfil a moral responsibility’ (51%).

Another research study found that an older volunteer is more likely to prefer a people-orientated role, with more responsibility rather than admin. They want regular training and information-sharing to increase levels of competence and so have less need for supervision – worth bearing in mind as you consider options.

It’s certainly worth keeping your options open and trying out a few organisations so you can see how you fit in. Carol found that the people at a historical house were overly demanding, whereas the local theatre was a delight and she got to watch films and plays for free, too. Carol had volunteered prior to her retirement, and so continued. Research has found that when people haven’t volunteered whilst in work, they are less likely to volunteer in retirement, but you could well be the exception.


Konrath, S., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., Lou, A., & Brown, S. (2012). Motives for volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adultsHealth Psychology, 31(1), 87–96.

Morrow-Howell N., Hong S.I., & Tang F. (2009). Who benefits from volunteering? Variations in perceived benefits. The Gerontologist 49(1): 91–102.

Moen, P., & Fields, V. (2002). Midcourse in the United States: Does Unpaid Community Participation Replace Paid Work? Ageing International, 27, 21–48.

Stukas A., Daly M., and Cowling M., (2005) Volunteerism and social capital: a functional approach. Australian Journal on Volunteering, 10(2): 35–44.