Often when people retire they offer to work for free (volunteer) as a way of staying active and involved and giving back to the community. Volunteering can also be a way to find a “community” of like-minded (or not) souls and there is also the potential for growing your social network. You may even end up with paid work as a result. I know many people that this has happened to.
Regardless, volunteering is as good for the volunteer as the recipient of the free labour, from what I have seen. My dear late mother (and long-departed father too, for that matter) loved to volunteer. Her diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma meant the end of her working life and the beginning of her volunteering at both the Emergency Department and the Cancer Clinic at her local hospital, when her health allowed.
Mom volunteered a couple of days per week up until the last year of her life, when her own cancer finally got the upper hand for the last time. Because she was dealing with cancer at the same time she was volunteering, she was especially empathetic and effective in helping others navigate their own cancer journey while at the clinic. And I think being needed and appreciated as a volunteer helped Mom stay engaged with life and gave her the purpose she still needed despite no longer having the energy for full-time work. She had a couple of long-lasting and spontaneous remissions during her 15 year battle, which baffled the oncologist and led her to remark: I don’t know what you’re doing, but just keep doing it! I’d like to think her volunteering contributed in some way.
I also have plans to volunteer once retired. Because I’ve experienced so much death during the last 4 years, I’ve come to realize that I am someone who can handle that situation better than others. Somehow I can manage to keep my own emotions on the back burner and focus instead on ensuring the dying person is heard and has their needs met.
I am not afraid of death or dying. I’ve looked into how I could translate this “talent” of mine into a volunteer opportunity, because in our death-phobic society there are not many that want to or are capable of spending time with a dying person. Let’s face it – we are all in the process of dying as long as we are living – just some of us are facing it sooner than others. I believe I will end up volunteering for a local hospice when my working life is over. If I don’t die first (hehehe). And this is how I plan to give back to my community once full-time work life is over.