What is volunteering?
Volunteering is where you offer your time and skills for free to a charity, organisation or an individual who is not a member of your family or a friend.
Volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience. Not only will you be giving your time to doing something useful, you can meet new people, learn new skills and hopefully have fun as well!
There are many opportunities for you to volunteer; you just need to decide what’s right for you. Around 5 million people over the age of 50 participate in voluntary work, and many organisations rely on older volunteers for their knowledge and their experience.
Benefits of volunteering
There are many benefits to becoming a volunteer, including:
- Learning a new skill or putting existing skills to good use – Many organisations could benefit from your existing knowledge and experience and it’s always useful to learn new skills.
- Meeting new people – By volunteering you can meet like-minded people of all ages and make new friends.
- Gaining valuable experience – If you are looking to get back into paid work or maybe to change your career, volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience in your chosen field.
- Occupying your time and getting out of the house – Having something to occupy your time can improve your mental health and keep you busy, particularly if you are feeling lonely or isolated.
- Contributing to a good cause – Volunteering for a good cause, for example for your favourite charity, is a great way of contributing to your local community and will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference.
- Improving patient treatments and outcomes – you can make a difference by talking about your medical condition; contributing to patient involvement groups for Trusts.
- Helping you to adjust to retirement – Many people find it difficult to adjust to retirement, and taking on voluntary work can be an excellent way of coping with this. It will keep you occupied, without having the pressures of paid work.
- Helping you to overcome bereavement – If you are going through bereavement, it can be a very difficult and lonely time. Volunteering can help to take your mind off things and is a great way to meet other people who may be in a similar situation.
- Building confidence – If you have been out of work or retired for some time, you may find that you are lacking confidence in your skills and abilities. Volunteering can help to restore this, when you see the difference that you can make.
- Improving you health – Research has found that volunteering gives people a sense of wellbeing, a stronger immune system and even a speedier recovery from surgery!
“Volunteering has certainly given me a chance to enhance my own personal development. More important than this, however, is the fact that, in giving and reaching out to others, I have received so much more in return.”
Eric, aged 68 years old.
Things to consider before volunteering
Before you decide to volunteer you might like to think about the following:
- What you would enjoy – Is there a cause that you’re particularly passionate about, or perhaps a group of people you enjoy working with? Do you have any specific skills that you want to put to good use? Would you prefer an office-based role or an active outdoors activity?
- Making a commitment – Some organisations take on volunteers on a very casual basis, whilst others need someone who can give their time on a more structured basis. Think about the amount of time that you can spare before deciding on a role that will suit you.
- Achieving your aims – If you are thinking about volunteering to improve your career prospects or to learn a new skill, you should think carefully about whether the role will fulfil your expectations. It is important to explain to your chosen organisation what you hope to gain from volunteering with them.
- Welfare benefits – You can volunteer for as many hours as you want, as long as you don’t get paid beyond expenses and you are available for interview within 48 hours. The old rule that you could only volunteer for 16 hours a week no longer applies, however you should Always check with your personal adviser before you start volunteering.
Finding a volunteering role
There are a huge range of volunteering opportunities available including:
- Trustee of a charity or voluntary group
- Animal welfare
- Park Run and fitness
- NHS services directly or through associated charities
- Youth work
Once you have decided on the type of work that you would like to do, or the organisation you want to volunteer with, there are several ways to go about finding a role:
- Contact the organisation directly
- Contact your local Volunteer Centre (see the section below for details)
- Search the Do-it.org for available opportunities
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP) is a free-standing, volunteer-led programme within Volunteering Matters. It aims to encourage people aged over 50 years old to participate in volunteering in their local area.
“I enjoy my volunteering! We have some good laughs with the older people I help to support. Well, some of them are not much older than me!”
Betty, aged 72 years old.
Other Useful Information and Organisations
Volunteer Centre Newcastle can provide you with support and advice before and during your volunteering, and can help to find you a role by matching your skills and interests with suitable organisations.
Volunteering Matters is the UK’s leading volunteering and training charity.
National Council for Voluntary Organisations is the national volunteering agency and offers information and advice on volunteering.
Visit the NIHR local network site.
Take up a volunteering challenge for Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (for instance the Late Shows in May)
Keep fit and active whilst helping older people through GoodGym.
Voice is an organisation that supports a range of research activities and requires volunteers who have an interest in ageing.
Last updated: July 4, 2019