Ahm the long-anticipated rewards of retirement.
It’s considered the age of fulfillment, the age when you take that class in watercolors, sail a translucent blue ocean, embark on a highway adventure along the California coast or plant the garden you have always wanted. Once viewed as a time of decline and end, the retirement years in the 21sst century are now seen as a season of expansion and opportunity, where new adventures and explorations dictate the day.
The 76 million Baby Boomers retiring during a 19-year span have retooled retirement. Nearly 11,000 Boomers retire every day and this group appears to have no intention of going gently into the night.
Dreams for how to invest the third phase of life for this generation vary from simple to grand, second careers to whimsical hobbies. And for many, pursuing philanthropic ventures and serving the social good ranks high for their time and attention.
Volunteer seekers can burrow into websites like volunteer-augusta.com or volunteermatch.org to look for organizations that need extra hands at multiple levels. Commitments can be one time, ongoing or intermittent. Passion for the arts? Become a docent at the Morris Museum of Art. Or help Symphony Orchestra Augusta with its project to document the Miller Theater. Prefer to help in the medical community? Local hospitals use volunteers to provide patients with transportation, assistance, comfort and even flowers. Contact any of the major medical centers to explore volunteer opportunities. Looking to have another kind of impact? Contact Golden Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Turn Back the Block and other similar community building programs to make a practical difference in the lives of other CSRA residents.
…Moon began sharing her love of art at the museum..she took the several months of classes to learn about the museum, being a guide and the galleries themselves.
Like our featured CSRA volunteers, more than 350,000 Americans age 55 and older approaching the golden season of life annually choose to invest a portion of their retirement days as senior volunteers contributing a total of more than 82 million hours annually, according to a report published by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs.
What incentive does someone have for spending one, 10 or 20 hours each month serving in a local community organization once the alarm clock has been turned off for good and the monthly office parking space surrendered?
For one thing, those who sow in volunteer deeds reap significant health benefits. Senior volunteers have lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, few physical limitations and high levels of well-being, agency research shows.
And there is perhaps a more profound reason for these retirees’ new-found passions. They come to their appointments of service well-equipped to share their gifts with others. Seniors who have learned life lessons bring a collective wisdom on matters of grace, creativity, generosity, joy and kindness to their roles. The golden years for many appear to include giving away much of what they’ve gathered in preceding decades. So maybe one of the true treasures of those years is found in what one shares with others.
The value of senior volunteer hours, annually estimated by federal agencies to be in the billions of dollars, carries another less measurable, intrinsic worth. One might say senior volunteers who dedicate their time, energy and talents in their retirement years to serving others are worth their weight in, well, gold.
Carolyn Moon was raised by a volunteer, her mother, so serving others is a natural way of life for her. The Morris Museum of Art docent and self-described Army brat says being a volunteer is primarily about sharing with others. “It’s about sharing the things you love and the things you love to do,” Moon says.
Nearly eight years ago when Moon began sharing her love of art at the museum, she intended to handle some of the lighter duties, like working at the information desk. Moon, a former medical credential committee member, was accustomed to more complicated assignments and she was asked early to consider becoming a guide. She took the several months of classes to learn about the museum, being a guide and the galleries themselves.
“I never looked back,” Moon says of her four-month experience training to become a docent.
Moon began her professional career in education as a teacher, left to raise her children, then returned to the workforce in medical administration where she worked until she retired from full-time work in 2001. Moon, who conducts several tours each month at the museum, says retirement is not an end goal. “You have to have something to retire to or you’re just going to whither away,” she points out. Volunteering in retirement, she says, is a “wonderful way to explore your interests.”
She recommends for those in or near retirement who are looking for an opportunity to share their passions and skills in the community to consider areas in history, investigating at the local colleges, at a food kitchen or art classes. She recalls listening to UGA coach and former athletic director Vince Dooley speak at a local gathering not long ago. Dooley shared how he loved living in Athens, Moon says, where he could audit as many classes as he wished but never had to take a single test. She recommends auditing a class or two in an area of interest for would-be volunteers.
The volunteer mindset, Moon says, is about sharing one’s passions and skills in every area, including art, home-building, organization and administration. “You are introducing people to something new and wonderful,” Moon enthuses. “You share it so they can enjoy it.”
Forty years in the military…did not prepare Kay Capizzi for a leisurely retirement…Her years of service did prepare the tireless Capizzi for her new path as a nearly full-time volunteer.
But her years of service did prepare the tireless Capizzi for her new path, as nearly full-time volunteer.
Capizzi says that she went from being a board member at Habitat for Humanity to being a weekly volunteer in the mortgage department because the organization needed somebody to help. “And I volunteered,” she says, in her matter-of-fact style.
Although she had no experience working with mortgages, Capizzi learned the necessary skills for the position through Habitat for Humanity International and a local bank, which offered assistance. Capizzi went from learning the mortgage ropes to serving up to 40 hours a week with the organization. “To be honest, I keep forgetting I’m a volunteer,” she chuckles.It’s Like a Job.. But More Fun!
Ready To Start
It is easy to see why Capizzi occasionally feels less volunteer-ish and more like an employee but why does she, after serving her country with such dedication for more than two decades, now serve her community with such similar fervency?
Her reply is as straight-forward as the retiree herself. “I enjoy it. I enjoy the people I work with down here. And the mission of Habitat is just fantastic.” One of the most satisfying thrills in her position, Capizzi says, is when someone pays off their house.
The 77-year-old former bowler says she has no desire to travel any longer, having seen much of the world during her military career. She spends her free time reading, working in her yard and, of course, working with her neighborhood association, yet another place of service.
Those thinking about becoming a community volunteer should talk to others, meet people within an organization and choose something they enjoy doing, according to Capizzi. “Golly, you will wonder why you waited so long.”
Her final word on becoming a volunteer is given with the precision of a military order. “I highly recommend it.”
The gregarious Hall has always chosen to serve in places that offered the most dynamic interaction with those in need…
Pat Hall has volunteered for the past 30 years, while raising her two sons, working full-time as a corporate administrator at Georgia Pacific and while also launching a new business. Volunteering for the energetic Hall has been a way a life, not just a retirement activity.
The gregarious Hall has always chosen to serve in places that offered the most dynamic interaction with those in need, whether it was transporting a hospital patient in a wheelchair, being a face of compassion to abused children or serving in her present role as a mealtime assistant at Golden Harvest Food Bank. Hall insists she does not want to cook or do anything in the back rooms when she could instead “mingle with the people and talk to them.”
The 73-year-old grandmother spends several hours each week visiting with and greeting guests during meal time at the Master’s Table. She says she came to the food bank about three years ago after leaving another volunteer position elsewhere in the community. She determined to serve at the food bank after she investigated, listened to the mission statement and decided to try it. “I got attached to the people,” Hall explains. “Most of them know me now.”
A few of the men are the ages of her sons. She registers what that means to her. “I know my children could be sitting there if they had made different choices.”
Her philosophy on spending time taking classes or traveling is that those things are acceptable but limited. “You can take in and take in and take in,” she says, “but it is like a water wheel. If you take in and don’t give out, with no way of receiving, it is so barren.”
For Hall, volunteering holds other self-improvement benefits. “You feel different about yourself if you give without receiving. It changes you.”
The rewards for a volunteer, Hall says, are a kind word, a smile and even a hug from those benefitting from the service she and others offer. “All the gifts in the world go in a drawer somewhere, but those kinds of gifts, you never lose.”
Each week after Hall spends several hours enjoying the guests at the Master’s Table and collecting the invaluable gifts of being a volunteer, she leaves full, not from food, but from friendship.
“I walk away feeling I am rich.”
This article appears in the June/July 2015 issue of Augusta Magazine.