A popular option for people young and old is to volunteer. Not only are you doing something good for the community, volunteering has been shown to be good for your mental and physical health. But perhaps you've never offered your time and skills before and aren't sure what to expect. You may also be unsure where to volunteer or how to start. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider giving of yourself:

Choose a cause that matters to you. If you're like most people, you've spent at least part of your life working at jobs you don't like. Now's your chance to immerse yourself in your interests. Are you passionate about animal welfare? Then think about making phone calls for an animal-rescue organization or walking dogs at the local animal shelter. Love to garden? Perhaps some of the public buildings in your town are in need of a good weeding and planting.

Connect with people and organizations that need you. How do you find the best match for your skills and talents? Your local Y or community center may have fliers letting residents know where volunteers are needed. Your local paper almost certainly prints calls for volunteers. Local festivals and benefits are usually good starting places to meet agencies in need of your help. Go online to learn about openings. Try VolunteerMatch to start, or look up places that interest you and see if there's a "Volunteer" tab on the home page. If there's a place you're especially interested in, offer your services.

Have a firm agreement. Once you've found a venue that wants your help, speak with the supervisor and make sure you understand his or her expectations and that they are in line with yours. Since you are donating your time and skills, you may want a lot of flexibility in the hours you work. At some places this will be fine, but others may want you to commit to a fixed schedule. Don't take on more than you want to or can. Be clear about what you can offer and make sure both sides are on the same page.

Volunteering can be one of the most enriching, satisfying experiences of your life. Remember that your considerable life skills are valuable and inspirational. Give of them generously and you'll reap the benefits in the form of new friends, new experiences, and the feeling of a job well done.


VolunteerMatch  http://www.volunteermatch.org

Volunteer50Plus http://www.volunteer50plus.ca

SeniorCorps http://www.seniorcorps.org