5 September 2017

The Silver Saviours of New Zealand

Retirement is moving on up. 

We’re living longer and healthier than ever before. We’re more financially comfortable than previous generations and as wonderful as playing golf and looking after the grandchildren can be, a lot of us are looking for more out of our retirement.

In other words, we might be retiring but we’re not stopping. And for many of us the will to ‘work’ is still strong.

62-year-old Lyn Packer is a good example. She’s one of one million Kiwi volunteers who give up their time, knowledge, and skills for good.

She’s been doing it for most of her life, volunteering at church offices and conferences, as well as with Tearfund, World Vision, and various youth organisations in her younger years.  

In both Thailand and Cambodia, she’s helped women and children trapped in the sex trade and provided food, clothes, and basic schooling to families living in rubbish dumps.

“I enjoy doing volunteer work because it's a way to give back to a world that has given me so much and it's a way of sharing my skills and abilities.”

It’s also very valuable.

According to Age Concern, the annual value of unpaid and volunteering work in New Zealand alone was worth $9 billion in 2011, and thanks to our ageing population this is projected to jump to $20 billion by 2031, and a whopping $35 billion by 2051.

But money is only one measure.

For the world, volunteering is invaluable. Voluntary acts, big or small have the power to bind communities, and countries together.

Volunteering is essential to our communities

Volunteering is essential to our communities

And Volunteering New Zealand Chief Executive, Scott Miller says older people in this country are getting more and more stuck in.

“We‘re seeing an increasing emergence of early to mid 50 year olds who want to start winding back their careers but still do something valuable. Volunteering provides the perfect solution. It can even leverage you into a whole new career.” 

And Miller says volunteering is now evolving into a profession of its own.

“Traditional unskilled community volunteering is still there and still very important but there’s definitely been a paradigm shift towards more effective skilled-based volunteering that’s less about numbers and more about results.”

New Zealand’s VSA or Volunteer Service Abroad has been sending kiwi volunteers throughout the Asia-Pacific for the last 50 years.

But now we have ‘social purpose corporations’ like calling for volunteers to engage in skills-based projects around the world. They call it ‘experteering’ and have a whole section on their website specifically dedicated to retiree professionals.

And of course the benefits run both ways.

Science has proven that volunteerism enhances both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

In fact, when researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were.

Volunteer Lyn Packer couldn’t agree more.

“It's always a two way street, you start out thinking you are going to help someone and you end up growing and receiving so much back, in love, and in showing people they are valued.”

So what to do?

Many New Zealanders volunteer with the Department of Conservation

Many New Zealanders volunteer with the Department of Conservation

If you fancy some ‘volun-tourism’, is currently advertising for a fundraising expert to Uganda, a photographer to Honduras, a farm developer to India, IT teacher to Nigeria, a marketing expert to Cameroon, a conservationist to Bolivia, an early childhood specialist to Uganda, and an architect to Ecuador.

If you’d prefer to stay put, there’s no shortage of domestic opportunities.

You could be a Refugee Support Volunteer with the New Zealand Red Cross, helping settle former refugee families into kiwi communities.   

Or you could volunteer for Age Concern’s Accredited Visiting Service (AVS), a befriending service that matches older people who are lonely or socially isolated with volunteers.

You could also be a Volunteer Telephone Support Worker from your own home for national parenting helpline Parent Help or inspire the next generation of women in New Zealand by volunteering as a Group Leader for Girl Guiding NZ.

To find other jobs for good, contact Volunteering New Zealand or search online through a volunteering website.

Tearfund helps people in need across the world

Tearfund helps people in need across the world

Article written by Hannah Hill, Lifetime Retirement Income.

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