Skills-based volunteering for retirees

My father is almost 72. He’s in perfect shape and interested in the state of the world and the global economy. He knows his ways around agriculture just as well as around real estate just as well as he’s a seasoned investor and there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the stock exchange.  And most of all, ever since he retired, he’s so bored.

My ex-husband speaks three languages, used to be a Managing Director, has a background in education, has lived in four different countries and traveled the world, and has an extensive business network. And most of all, ever since he retired, he’s so bored.

Already years ago a friend of mine pointed out how the concept of retirement has become quite redundant in our times, in many countries, especially for so-called white collar workers. Decades ago, when people were working very hard physically, the concept of retirement made sense – and often, people did not even live for that many years after they retired.

Nowadays it’s all different. My ex-husband thought he looked forward to retirement – finally time to sleep in, practice the jazz trumpet, travel, read all those books. Oh well, he enjoyed it for about six months. Then he started missing work.

What is it that people tend to miss when they retire? Being in touch with other people, and having something meaningful to do – something that gives them a sense of accomplishment, of making a difference, of getting recognition.

Interestingly, still rather few retirees consider skills-based volunteering. Even more interestingly, it’s rather women than men who tend to volunteer. I also wonder how actively the NGO sector taps into the whole retiree pool for getting skills-based support. These are people who could help NGOs with their strategy, their marketing, their accounting, with fundraising, investment strategies, negotiating partnerships – you name it. This could be free consulting!

I’ve seen a few retired managers take on skills-based volunteering. I remember particularly a high-ranking manager from BMW. He spoke up at a conference where I was a panelist, and he was just glowing when he shared how much his involvement meant to him. He volunteers part-time, around 10 to 15 hours a week, and he is amazed how useful his management and leadership skills from the automobile world are to the drug counselling center where he volunteers.

Another great example to me is the high-ranking manager from a major oil company who upon his retirement got seconded to a big international development NGO, with the company even providing some compensation for his time spent there.

Why do I write about this? We read so much about volunteering, be it on people’s personal time or as employee volunteering. I miss seeing more on skills-based volunteering for retirees – something that is becoming ever more relevant in our ageing societies in the so-called Western world, and something that is certainly a triple win: NGOs get invaluable skills contributed for free. Retirees don’t fall into a black hole of boredom, instead feel fulfilled from making a meaningful contribution. And the company can still proudly report on retirees volunteering in its CR report! It ups the total numbers of participants and hours, and it provides the human interest stories.

By the way, my ex-husband found his volunteering job eventually. He’s taking care of marketing the region where he lives in France for free, just getting his expenses paid – thus helping both their trade relations and their tourism.

I’m still looking for the right kind of involvement for my Dad – his favorite would be some work in Southern Africa! Any takers?

Published by scheubel

Organisational Change Consultant, Coach and Trainer - focus on Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability

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