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Volunteering in retirement

A lot of retirees want to give something back to their communities by doing voluntary work in retirement. It’s not hard to see the appeal - you’ve worked hard all your life, but now you have more free time on your hands that you can use to help others.

A spokesperson from Saga, which specialises in services for the over-50s, says: “The over 50s are by far the more generous generation when it comes to giving up their time for charity. This is no slight against the young - as many are juggling work with bringing up younger families, so simply don't have the time to spare.”

As their children become more independent, many over 50s find themselves in a better position to be able to support charities that are close to their hearts. Saga notes that as well as giving their time, the over 50s also give proportionately more to charity than other age groups.

Why volunteer?

Recent research by Saga found that more than two in five (42%) over 50s volunteer on a regular basis, with three in five (62%) saying their primary reason for volunteering is to help others. Around a fifth (17%) do so to help them remain socially active and one in ten volunteer just because it's fun, while 4% volunteer to help them remain physically active.

According to the Royal Voluntary Service, which has 35,000 volunteers country-wide helping older people stay active and independent, there is no ‘typical’ volunteer, although a higher proportion of women volunteer than men, often post-retirement.

There are lots of different volunteering opportunities available, and most organisations are flexible about how much time you want to commit. But be careful about over-committing – you’ll need to think carefully about any other demands that you might have on your time, such as looking after grandchildren.

Where you can volunteer

The charity Age UK says it is always looking for volunteers to help out in its high street shops, or to visit older people at home. Ways you can help in shops include managing the shop admin, becoming a sales adviser, or looking after stock.

There are also likely to be plenty of other organisations in your local area which require volunteers. For example, you might be able to help out in your local school, or you could perhaps join a committee for a local park, or an amateur dramatic group.

Research by insurer Aviva found that working in a charity shop (20%) is the most popular activity for over-55s seeking unpaid work, followed by a committee or trustee role (19%), teaching children to read (18%) and practical help such as DIY or cooking for people who need it (12%),

Useful contacts

  • To find out more about volunteering opportunities at Age UK, visit or telephone 0800 169 8787
  • Volunteering England has details of local volunteer centres in England and advice on finding volunteering opportunities across the UK. Visit or call 0845 305 6979 for more information
  • If you are interested in volunteering for the Royal Voluntary Service, visit or telephone 0845 608 0122

Real life story: “Volunteering is our way of saying thank you.”

Michael and Henrietta Branwell (pictured, in their youth), aged 67 and 65 respectively, spend most of their time volunteering because it keeps them active and enables them to help others.

Michael says: “In 1999 I was one of the three founders of the International Performers’ Aid Trust (IPAT) and, having been the first voluntary secretary, I have been the voluntary chairman for the last nine years. IPAT has raised nearly £400,000 and has given away over £300,000 of that in grants.

“Henrietta came on board as a trustee and then minute secretary five years ago. She has also been chairman of the Equity Staff Pension Scheme for over 10 years and a Trustee for 25 years. In 2011, she was voted Pension Trustee of the Year for saving the scheme and at the same time saving the Union about £9 million.”

The couple also run the Harlow Ballet Association which puts on performances at The Playhouse Harlow and other locations and are on the committee of the local amateur dramatic company, the Moot House Players.

Michael adds: “We have had such good lives that we feel it is important to give something back to our community. I suppose it’s our way of saying thank you. Volunteering keeps us active and interested and it keeps the brain going too.”

Do you volunteer in your community? We’d love to hear your experiences. Let us know below or head to the Forum.

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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