A group of people wearing gardening gloves pick up litter and put it in green bags

Life after work

Volunteering and part-time work

How to keep some structure in your life.

For some, retirement signals a time to relax – a time when you don’t have to set an alarm, think about a to-do list or even turn on a computer. For others, the end of working life can be daunting. The loss of structure can feel overwhelming and many crave the routine and independence that having a career brings.

Volunteering is a brilliant way to keep some structure in your life while giving something back to your community. There are lots of ways you can volunteer – you could work with animals, in a shop or be part of a cause you’re passionate about. If you’re struggling to work out what’s right for you, we’ve rounded up some volunteering ideas.

Child mentoring

If you enjoy working with children, mentoring could be right for you. There are lots of organisations and local councils across the UK that provide children in care with a mentor (known as an Independent Visitor) to ensure they have a reliable, consistent and trustworthy person in their life.

To become an Independent Visitor, you’ll need to fill out an application form. You’ll then be DBS (criminal record) and reference checked. Once approved, you’ll undergo in-depth training (usually one meeting every week for three months) with other potential mentors. You’ll then be interviewed and if successful, you’ll be matched with a young person.

Being an Independent Visitor is hugely rewarding – you’ll have the chance to make a big difference to someone’s life. You’ll be asked to commit for at least two years and it’s important that you meet regularly (usually every fortnight). You may also hear things that are of a sensitive nature.

For more information reach out to your favourite children’s charity or contact your local council and ask about mentoring opportunities in your area.

Friendship volunteering

If you enjoy meeting and talking to new people, you could help improve the lives of older people as a friendship volunteer.

Friendship volunteers make a real difference to people's lives. Having a chat and getting to know an older person is a fantastic way to build a relationship that makes them feel more socially connected. 

People look forward to receiving a weekly visit or phone call from Independent Age friendship volunteers. It’s a mood booster that helps them feel more connected and less lonely. 

Your calls and visits can be a great source of satisfaction and enjoyment for you, as well as the person you talk to. You’ll also discover that giving time to listen to an older person can empower them, improve their wellbeing and help build their self-esteem.  

Calls and visits take place at an agreed time. If you’re visiting someone, they’ll be local to you so you can fit visits around your other commitments.

Take a look at the Independent Age website1 if you’d like to find out more.

Working with animals

If you like animals but can’t have a pet, volunteering is a great way to spend time with them. Whether it’s working with rescued pets or sick animals, there are lots of ways you can use some of your free time to help.

Lots of animal homes across the UK offer volunteering opportunities.  Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, for example, relies on help from its volunteers to take care of over 7,000 animals every year. From animal welfare to office duties, its volunteers are involved in all aspects of the business. You could use your skills – or learn new ones – to help cats and dogs that may not have had the best start in life while giving back to the community. For a list of current opportunities and details on how to apply go to its vacancies page.  

If you’re not based in London, check locally to find your nearest rescue centre or contact your local animal home and see if they need any help.

Working abroad

If you fancy getting away but still want to do something with purpose, getting involved in a project abroad could be the answer. Whether it’s being part of a community wildlife project or working in a local hospital, there are projects all over the world that require help from enthusiastic volunteers.

If you think volunteering abroad is just for students or people taking a career gap, think again. Several organisations, offer rewarding opportunities in communities that need help that are perfect for older volunteers.  Look online for volunteer projects abroad for some instant inspiration. You’ll find varied trip lengths available to suit most volunteers.

Give back to your community

For many, a chance to play a key part in their local community – and make a difference to lives - could bring a new kind of fulfilment.

For example, you could consider becoming a magistrate or applying to be a school governor.

Both roles are particularly open to volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds, and from all ages.

Top up your income

As well as working for free, you could top up your income with some part-time work. Many small businesses need part-time help, such as bookkeeping or website design. You could work for as little as one day a week, which could help you to stay independent and keep your mind active. Contact local companies and ask if they need help – it could be your local charity shop or a business in your field of expertise.

Another way to make some extra money – and meet new people at the same time – is to open up your home. You could have a lodger or rent a room out to a student or tourist short term. You’ll find a number of websites online that can help you with this. If you don’t want to rent out a room in your home, why not rent out a parking space instead? There are lots of sites to choose from online. Always read customer reviews first to be sure of service.

There are lots of ways to make extra money without interrupting your plans to relax. You could iron people’s clothes, babysit, walk dogs or if you’ve worked in education, you could mark exam papers. Have a look on neighbourhood social networking sites for opportunities in your area. Make sure you check the person or company is reputable and don’t do any work until you have agreed how much you’ll earn.

Remember, any earnings will be taxed in the usual way.

 A man and a woman riding bikes along a coastal path

Spreading your wings

Travelling in later life

With retirement in sight or the kids flying the nest, you might have more time to jet off. Here’s our guide for smooth sailing.