Are You an Empty Nester Looking for Purpose in Life Volunteer!

What is your
purpose in life? The answer is elusive for most of us, especially as it is
prone to change depending on many factors, age being just one of them.

How we relate to others and that for which we feel passionately can change as we do, and over time we may find we need to move on to other things.

For many
of us, careers, time spent at a job, or caring for family once filled our days
and gave us a sense of fulfillment. But what happens when we move on beyond
careers, caring for children, and those things that mattered so much?

It’s Not All About Freedom

We can be
left in a state of disconnect, feeling ambiguous, perhaps noncommittal. At
first, we may covet our free time and be reluctant to take on any
responsibilities or commit ourselves too deeply.

We may
feel a need for unscheduled time and a strong dose of freedom. That’s common
and healthy after suspending our desires for so long.

But not
much into my freedom I noticed a hole in my life, an emptiness that all the
lunching out with girlfriends, physical workouts, and weekends away couldn’t
fill. I was unsettled, off center, and soon became bored with leisure time as a
way of life.

I sought
out a volunteer position mentoring women in business and that commitment eventually
led to a stint on a nonprofit board. I felt once again useful and gratified. I
could easily identify my purpose. I was meant to use my experience and
knowledge to serve others, specifically women.

I would guess my story is not unique and many other women have found an undeniable need for purpose at this stage. But how do we go about finding a volunteer commitment that is right for us? Here are some simple steps to help guide you.

How to Set Your Priorities

these questions to assess what you need and want.

Group of Interest

Do you
care most about children, animals, the environment, food security, or another
area of service?

Local or Not?

Are you
able to travel to another city, or do you need your volunteer’s position to be
conveniently located in your neighborhood?

Useful Skills

What do
you have to offer? Make a list of your background, your skill set, and your


Do you
have physical limitations that need to be considered, such as, no heavy
lifting, standing for long periods, etc.?

Making Service Fun

What do
you enjoy doing, and can you blend your favorite leisure activity with being of
service? For example, if you enjoy gardening, is there a community garden that
needs your help?

to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge that, if your needs are met, your volunteer
commitment will be far more enjoyable, fulfilling, and successful. If you would
like to meet new and interesting people, then look beyond your social group. If
you enjoy travel seek out a stint with an international group.

Keep in
mind, we all have more to offer than perhaps we initially expect. Try to keep
an open mind, look beyond your comfort zone so your time and efforts benefit
others, but also offer you a new endeavor that is stimulating and engaging.

Making the Connection

Use a variety of resources to find where you belong. Visit your local volunteer center, ask friends, neighbors, and acquaintances for a recommendation, and search online.

Look to nationally
respected organizations that may have branches in your area but also consider
grassroots groups who may be more welcoming, close knit, and in greater need.

Be sure to
have an honest discussion with the volunteer coordinator about what you’re
looking for, your level of commitment, and what is expected from a volunteer.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to thank them and move on. They want
to make a suitable match just as you do.

Groups Looking for Senior Volunteers

groups are looking especially for volunteers aged 55+.

Senior Corps

is a network of national service programs for Americans 55 years
and older, made up of three primary programs that each take a different
approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.

Corps volunteers commit their time to address critical community needs including
academic tutoring and mentoring, elderly care, disaster relief support, and


AMAVA offers a “flexible, socially engaging
experience.” With AMAVA you can find a flexible job, sign up for a unique
experience, or volunteer. Their team can help you find that purpose you’ve been
looking for – in your local community and beyond.

Consider Traveling as Part of a Volunteer Commitment

for an international organization can be an exciting experience, and there are
many organizations looking for mature volunteers.

Be sure to
vet the organization, ask to speak with alumni of the programs to get their
recommendations and choose carefully to ensure the opportunity is well suited
for you.

The whole
idea is to share what you know, what you’ve learned over the years for the
benefit of someone else. If you can do that while exploring new places – even better.

If you
want to volunteer
, there are many opportunities to integrate volunteerism with
travel. Leyla Giray Alyanak of Women on
the Road
presents a great article to help women consider what might be the
best opportunity and whether they’re ready for international service.

There are
plenty of opportunities and lots of need. Take the first step and make a
connection. You will be glad you did. I promise.

What does freedom look like when you’re over 50? Can you get tired (or bored!) of having too much free time? What would you rather do? Do you volunteer? How often? For what organization? Please share with the community!