Our Boomer generation of retirees has done a remarkable job of reinventing ourselves in retirement. We grew up in a strong post-war economy and were politically active in making important progress in civil rights and feminism. We’re activists. We get things done. It’s no surprise that our innovative spirit and desire to contribute to society continues into this stage of our lives.

For many, including a large number of the mentors at Miller Center, volunteering is a key component of our retirement activities. It may be one of the puzzle pieces of a diverse retirement that also includes some doses of leisure and travel, part-time work such as board seats, and renewed spirituality. Volunteering typically has the flexibility to accommodate the full richness of this blend of retirement activities. Even in these challenging times of COVID-19, Miller Center volunteering has adapted to the changed circumstances, and even increased its impact with intensive courses on adjusting to the pandemic.

Let’s hear from some people for whom volunteering is a valued component of their retirement. The quotes below are from a variety of volunteers who were interviewed for my upcoming book about Boomers and their retirement. Some of the quotes are from Miller Center mentors, and some are from people who have different volunteer activities.

Hear some views of the importance of giving back as a reward for volunteering:

“I don’t think about having an obligation to give back. It’s just something I have always done.”

“Two and a half weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, our boatload of food and relief supplies constituted the only aid that had made it to Green Turtle Cay. Several people said that if we didn’t arrive with food, they would have gone hungry.”

“There’s not much more that we can do that’s more emotional than giving a family the keys to their house that they have helped build and that I’ve been involved with.”

“Working with Social Entrepreneurs as a mentor is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. Seeing the kind of progress that they can make.”

“Installing artificial hands to amputees in Panama is life-changing for them, really life-changing. You can hold brooms, you can drive a tractor, you can use a shovel.”

“I guess it’s my dream of making sure that this outdoor preschool goes on. It’s been around since the mid-’50s, and I’ve been concerned about some challenges in this day and age.”

“Being a cancer survivor motivates me to work at a resale shop that benefits cancer research.”

The volunteer may also get a personal set of rewards as shown in the following quotes:

“It’s nice to just sit down with the other volunteers and say, ‘What’s going on?’ It builds friendship and connection.”

“When I was mentoring executive women, I found just by engaging with them regularly, it grounded me in core leadership principles just to be talking about it every month.”

“Pulling invasive Scotch broom was fun, and that led me to then write a script for the movie they were making about preserving the dunes.”

“Part of it was the geeky side of me that has not done engineering in 40 years. Those are parts of my brain I hadn’t used.”

“I think one of the best benefits of working on socially impactful projects is what that says to our kids, that this is something they can do.”

About Richard Haiduck

Richard Haiduck is a former life sciences executive and mentor to startup biotech CEOs. He is now enjoying an active and productive retirement. He is putting the finishing touches on Hangin’ Loose in Retirement, based on 75+ interviews with active retirees who are reinventing this stage of their life. The book is scheduled for release in November.

To date, he has served as a panelist multiple times and as a mentor for four social entrepreneurs. Richard is currently mentoring his fifth — Every Shelter, which utilizes the power of design to provide dignified temporary housing solutions for displaced communities. This fall, we will begin mentoring a social enterprise focused on improving agri-business systems in Africa as part of Miller Center’s Food Systems Accelerator.

You can visit Richard’s website and find him on Twitter at @richardhaiduck.

Learn more about becoming a Miller Center mentor and sharing your expertise to create impact.