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While many people have an urge to give back, Baby Boomers are in a unique position to take action.
For the younger of the generation, your kids are out of the house; your grandkids may be past the gotta-see-them-every-minute age. For the oldest, you’re headed into retirement, leaving work behind. You tend to have this one thing in common: You’re finding yourself with a lot more time to use as you please.
There are many options to fill that time, of course: start a new hobby, launch a business, write a book, travel, to name a few. You can also devote some of your free time to volunteering.
Here are just a few ways you can use your time to give back:
Help the Environment
About half of NPS volunteers are retirees. Volunteers help maintain federal parks, monuments, and battlefields around the country — and you can get some fresh air while you do it! Depending on your location and assignment, you could perform a variety of tasks, from relaying historical information to visitors to mentoring kids’ programs to (what you might imagine) cleaning up parks and forests.
2. Arbor Day Foundation
Through their “action center” ArborDayNow.org, the Arbor Day Foundation encourages you to do one simple thing: plant a tree. Volunteer opportunities vary depending on your community, from photographing street trees to assisting with coordination and promotion of special events to collecting data to monitor the health of trees.
3. Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots organization, giving you the opportunity to serve your community and country in powerful ways. They run a number of campaigns at any given time, things like fighting pollution, protecting natural habitats, and eliminating coal-burning power plants.
Help Military Families and Veterans
Join the USO along with 30,000 volunteers who support local military members and their families. Along with the USO, The US Department of Veterans Affairs offers volunteer programs to help homeless veterans. Sixty and Me identifies other ideas on how you can volunteer as an older adult.
Libraries in our modern culture are wildly underfunded and rely heavily on volunteers to provide their much-needed services to the community. Find an opportunity to volunteer with a library in your area, and give back by providing education and recreation for kids through a shared love of books.
For more than a century, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has provided some of the most mutually-rewarding service opportunities you can find. You’ll be matched with a “Little Brother” or “Little Sister” who is in need of a figure to help guide them and bring out their full potential.
You make a commitment of only a few hours each month, but the experience can be life-changing — for you and your “Little” counterpart.
Travel While You Serve
7. Peace Corps
You may think of this as an opportunity for 20-somethings fresh out of college, but the Peace Corps recently launched their 50 Plus Initiative, and now about five percent of their active volunteers are actually age 50 and older. What attracts you in middle age or retirement is much the same as what attracts wayward twenty-somethings: Get an opportunity to see the world while teaching children, promoting global health, combating social and economic problems worldwide, and more.
Earthwatch volunteers work with scientists to solve environmental problems. You can join an expedition to attack environmental issues around the globe. The organization will teach you everything you need to know, so all you need to get started is a desire to help the environment and a penchant for adventure.
Million Mile Secrets explains how you can partake in volunteer travel responsibly and find a reputable organization that supports the cause you’re interested in. Their travel experts also include advice from their own experiences, and explain how to use points and miles to book your trip.
Feed the Hungry
10. Volunteer at a local food pantry.
This is one of the most common areas of direct service in your local community, an opportunity available to just about anyone who wants to help. Browse a site like Feeding America to learn more about hunger in the nation and how you can help.
11. Organize a food drive.
Bring together volunteers and charities in your community to collect food for local pantries. If you’ve never tried something like this before, AARP’s Create the Good offers a great overview of how to organize a food drive in your area.
12. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
Help low-income seniors, children, parents, and families access the hunger relief they need. You can learn more about the federal program and help educate the people in your community who need it.
Do you volunteer in your community? What opportunities would you add to this list?