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Volunteering: How giving your time for free could make your life richer

Picking up litter

Retirement can be a tricky time. As well as missing the income, you may also miss the routine of regular work and the interaction with colleagues. Even before retirement, some people can feel their lives lack purpose or they long to meet people beyond their existing circle of friends and workmates.

So whether you’re motivated by a desire to help others, make new friends or simply to keep active, volunteering can provide a way to do it.

A report by Royal Voluntary Service called First Timers: Kickstarting a Volunteering Revolution, showed that 56% of the UK population have volunteered at some time in their lives.

The main benefits people said they received from this were that it made them feel more useful (60%), more fulfilled (56%), more socially aware (53%) more connected to their local community (52%) and gave them access to new friends (52%). Volunteering also had an impact on their wellbeing with around half saying it made them feel more positive (51%) and happier (49%).

The link with wellbeing was echoed in an online survey by Legal & General and Royal Voluntary Service which showed that volunteering can play a huge role in helping people to enjoy their retirement. The survey found that those happiest in retirement were over twice as likely to have found purpose in something other than work (39% compared with 17%) and seven times more likely to be using their skills and talents (28% compared with 4%).

Royal Voluntary Service’s research is part of its wider ‘Step Forward’ campaign, supported by Legal & General, which calls on more people to volunteer their skills and talents.

Volunteers are needed in all age groups to support roles that affect people at every life stage. Royal Voluntary Service says its volunteers range from teenagers to 90-year-olds because the opportunities to help are so varied.

If you think volunteering could be for you but aren’t sure where to start, Royal Voluntary Service has some suggestions about what to consider:

  • Think about your talents. Everyone has something they can contribute as a volunteer. This could be providing companionship to a lonely person, helping someone settle back home after a hospital stay, or running a lunch club. Any little bit of help you can provide could make a big difference to someone else or to a community project.
  • Find a role that fits your timescale. A wide variety of roles and locations mean that volunteering can be flexible even if you only have an hour a week.
  • See what’s available. There are opportunities to volunteer across the country. Visit Royal Voluntary Service’s website at, type in your postcode and see the current services running in your area. If there isn’t a service where you live, Royal Voluntary Service is happy to hear from people looking to set up and run new groups and activities.

So why not find out more about volunteering in your area? Making a difference to someone else’s life could end up making a very positive difference to yours.

Download a copy of this article Volunteering: How giving your time for free could make your life richer as a pdf.