In the Service of Others

Q I am newly retired and scared to death of boredom. Can you offer any tips for finding a volunteer gig?


A Congratulations on your retirement and on your decision to volunteer. Many people start a volunteer “job” search by looking at where they want to serve, but an important
first step is to consider why you want to volunteer. Your question implies you want to stave off boredom in the transition from full-time paid employment to volunteer work. That is an important consideration,but do you know of the other positive effects?

A key characteristic of successful aging is volunteering, but we tend to minimize the effect it has by referring to it as unpaid work, or something to fill the time. If you can re-imagine volunteer work as service, you can experience it as something that goes beyond the individual self, serving the community, the greater good. This empowers you with two important benefits: a sense of purpose and a sense of connection. Both of these are essential to overall health and wellness.

To find a volunteer position that you enjoy, try these steps:

  • Identify a cause (ie. environment, hunger, politics, a cure etc.) or a group (ie. homeless, children, animals, seniors, veterans, etc.) you feel passionate about.
  • Think about your needs: Do you want to serve with a friend or make new friends?
  • Research organizations that serve that cause or group. Find out where the
    organization gets its funding, how they utilize volunteers, where they do their work.
  • Contact organizations that interest you. Ask about their current needs, new
    volunteer orientation, time commitment, and physical limitations.

Bear in mind: Volunteer duties can range from driving cancer patients to appointments to answering phones to mailing donation solicitations. Work may be done in an office/facility, a client’s home, or even on the streets. Remember also, that volunteer programs may have a hierarchy (supervisor) that doesn’t appeal to you. You are there to serve, so if the assigned
duties do not make you feel safe and appreciated, serve somewhere else.

Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Retirement is an exciting time to find yourself anew. Happy hunting!


“Lessons In Thriving” by Dan Buettner, available at

Gandhi Quotes found at: