Learning and Volunteer Ideas
For Seniors

Learning and volunteer ideas go hand in hand. Either makes a great retirement activity too – even if you don’t retire. 

Would you like to learn something new and volunteer at the same time? Or just do one or the other? To keep our memories and mental faculties in top shape, we need to keep learning. As centenarian Maurice Eisman says, "If I could leave any message, never stop learning. Period."

When we went to school as kids, it’s often because we had to. Maybe we enjoyed it and maybe we didn’t. Now is the time for you to learn something because you really want to, or pass along what you know. What would it be?

If you or a loved one lives in a retirement community, assisted living, or even a nursing home community, there still are many ways to put all that good knowledge and experience to use! It just takes a little creative thinking, and asking staff to help carry out your learning and volunteer ideas.

Sharing even in a small way helps keep the mind sharp, gives something to look forward to, and provides a sense of purpose and contribution.


Learning & Volunteer Ideas


Even if you don’t retire or if you just work part time, there are so many ways to help and to continue learning. Here are some volunteer ideas, and also a few for ongoing learning.

  • Jot down what you know about that you can share.
  • Next, jot down what you’d like to learn more about – perhaps to enhance what you can share.
  • Do you have a college or community college in your town? Call and have them send you a brochure. Many classes can be audited and taken for no grade or tests. Many can also be taken via the computer.
  • Ask if they have special senior education programs.
  • Also ask if they have volunteer ideas or programs to help students, if you are interested in education.
  • Many colleges offer an “elder collegium” curriculum, specifically for seniors.
  • Consider teaching (or performing) yourself, including at your senior center, nursing homes, etc. Sharing your expertise is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
  • Speaking of performing, there are theater groups in most towns that need help with anything from props to costumes to acting.
  • And, if you’re a real performer, a wonderful opportunity is to become a performer or volunteer clown with an organization that visits hospitals and nursing homes, as well as schools.
  • If you are good with sewing (costumes perhaps) or building and constructing things, you may be able to help make the actual props and items for the theater -- from where you live.
  • Do you like politics? This is an area full of possible learning and volunteer ideas. Retirement is a time to more fully participate, perhaps work on political campaign or get involved with voters organizations. Also see if there is anything you can do from home, if you prefer.
  • You may even consider running for office yourself. Start locally – many of these positions are volunteer or semi-volunteer.
  • Or become your organization’s expert in current legislation.
  • You could also begin a forum or group around a specific issue in your community. Others with many different backgrounds and experiences will join, creating not only a great civic activity, but also a learning opportunity for all. Who knows what volunteer ideas you may be creating as well.
  • Perhaps you’d like to volunteer with the League of Women’s Voters.
  • Speaking of organizations, take a look at Rotary, Toastmasters, help with the Jaycees (Junior Chamber), Feeding America, Best Buddies (who work with developmentally disabled), Senior Corps (working within communities in many capacities), Foster Grandparents. All of these provide volunteer and civic opportunities. Plus a good platform to learn something new. If you or your loved one lives on a campus, is it possible to start a civic group on site? Or hold meetings there?
  • If you are or were a business person, consider volunteer ideas at SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired Executives) which is in conjunction with the Small Business Administration. You can provide invaluable assistance and learning to others in business.
  • Participate in your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Some towns, counties and cities have similar small business mentorship programs – consider joining a local organization. Pass on what you know.
  • If you’re physically active, how about joining in with Habitat For Humanity and help build an affordable house. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll learn some new skills too.
  • If you’re interested in the environment, check if your community has a highway or park clean-up program.
  • Your local senior center is most likely full of volunteer ideas. As we age elderly issues can become overwhelming, sometimes necessitating community help. But senior centers also offer many fun senior activity ideas and chances to make new friends.
  • An excellent way to combine learning and volunteer ideas is to help those in need. Almost every community has a local food shelf and other types of community resources. If you have experience in food, health, social services, emergency assistance, communications, financial services, law, they especially need you!
  • A local long term care facility or nursing home may have an activities director that could really use help with crafts, field trips, and other activities for their residents.
  • If you have a legal background, consider assisting with Legal Aid.
  • Every state has an organization for vision and hearing impaired. And many of the positions are volunteer work or close to it. They may also need help with fund raising!
  • Volunteer ideas are plentiful in the outdoors too. Many park and recreational facilities, botanical gardens, and conservatories utilize volunteers and also teach classes (to teach yourself, assist with, or take). If you live in a community campus, offer to share what you know with small or larger groups. Ask staff to assist with putting a slide show together, or pass around books with pictures.
  • If you have experience with gardening, look into starting a community garden – either with flowers and plants, or a vegetable garden in which others can work a plot of their own. Or just plant flowers in an area of town that needs a little beautifying. Or, if you live in a community setting, offer to do a little gardening for them. I know a lady that daily takes a walk out to the outdoor patio with her walker. Then weeds and maintains the elevated gardens there. Others take care of the indoor planter and garden areas.
  • For pet lovers, your local animal shelter may need help. Or an animal hospital. Or perhaps you’d like to do a little volunteer dog walking or pet sitting for someone. If you live on a campus, maybe the activites director has or would like to have a program for bringing animals to the residents -- and you could help.
  • Does your local library have a Friends of the Library group? Many such groups not only fund raise and work in the library itself, but also bring books to those who are homebound. They may also include a program to reading to those recipients, or are in connection with another volunteer group who does read to others.
  • Jot down a list of books you’ve always wanted to read (maybe you already have one – in fact, you’ve been making it for years and it’s now three feet long). What is your plan – library, bookstore, or possibly books on tape. Are any of these books that you would like to share with others?
  • Join a book or movie club. None around? Start one with a few friends. Such clubs can provide a large range of fulfilling elderly activities. And develop into years of camaraderie and enjoyment.

As you know, it's important to exercise the brain as well as the body.

I have seen many seniors, especially in community living, ease into their own world and even become selfish and complaining. They may lose perspective. But there ways people of all ages can learn and help, even if donating to a charitable garage sale, craft fair or holiday effort. Perhaps knitting, sewing, help with baking, crafting or making items for them.

Seniors of almost any age can give hope and companionship to others, including in a facility in which they may live, or to kids. Volunteer ideas abound. These simple efforts can bring a turn-around in attitude and provide positive goals in life.

Pages with more retirement ideas:
Finding A Hobby -- Finding a hobby that is just right for you will give you a lifetime of enjoyment. Here’s the top list of hobby ideas, alone or in a group.
Senior Citizen Travel -- More detailed information on planning your trip, things to be aware of, and what questions to ask your travel agent.
Senior Activity Ideas -- Lots of very cool senior activity ideas, some great to do alone, or some in groups.



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