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When the subject of retirement comes up, it often conjures up images of lazy afternoons on a hammock, leisurely walks in the morning sunshine, floating peacefully on a raft in the pool, and other such restful, relaxing ways to spend time. Or retirement often implies completing all of the things on a “bucket list” before becoming too old to do so. Although these can certainly be some of the well-deserved choices of retirement, they don’t necessarily have to define the entire experience. Creatively and conscientiously spending one’s time in retirement is worth a little thought and consideration. One of the ways to create a meaningful retirement is volunteering. It offers purposeful activity and a sense of giving back to loved ones and the community.

When considering volunteer work, start with what you like to do. This can be doing work or activities that you did while still working. For example, an organization called Experience Matters utilizes the skills and talents of retired professionals to serve the needs of nonprofit organizations. Volunteers bring their experience and expertise to businesses and institutions that serve the community.

Your choice to volunteer can include people and activities that you enjoy, such as working with children, either your own, such as grandchildren, or others. Most of us parents remember the seemingly endless demands of parenting, and a helpful hand from grandparents can really make a difference. Whether with your own grandchildren or other children, schools are also a great place to volunteer. Most children naturally respond to the loving presence of a grandparent figure, and overworked teachers can always use an extra hand.

Since volunteering is a choice, you can be selective about where and how you give your time. Indoors, outdoors, one-on-one or with groups are just a few options to look at when choosing the right volunteer position. Carefully consider the circumstances in which you will be working. The more enjoyable and fulfilling the volunteer experience is for you, the more it will be for those who benefit from it.

Finally, another important factor in deciding to volunteer is how much time you want to donate. In retirement, time constraints are typically less demanding, so it’s important to offer the amount of time that will allow you leisure and freedom from responsibilities. It is also important to be committed to your volunteer choice and give it the respect that you would a paying job. Volunteers are valuable assets to people and organizations, and their regular presence is counted on.

Retirement is a great time of life for most seniors. It can be an especially rewarding and enriching experience when we decide to volunteer. Happy retirement!

• Joe Brown, MBA, M.Div., is a consultant with Reach 4 Your Spirit, a consulting and coaching group that looks to support well-being in our personal lives and business organizations. He can be reached at

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