Sunday, April 10, 2016

Giving back in retirement

As a species we have added 30 years to our lives, over the past century, not just for the lucky few but also for the majority of people in the developed world, and now the developing world. What does this new stage of life mean? 

Psychologists Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society (generativity) becomes an urgent need. 

Carl Jung, who was unique among early psychologists in his interest in the challenges of the second half of life, saw older age as a rich period of spiritual growth and individuation. 

Betty Friedan, who trained as a social psychologist, researched the issue of aging late in her life, and suggested that there is a “fountain of age,” a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation based on a new freedom.

The truth is, we do not yet know what this new stage of life can be, but the first step is to change the lens through which we view aging and challenge our stereotypical assumptions.

I believe that retirement does not have to be a time to detach from the world. It can be a time where you actually have the time and the energy to give back to your community. 

Here is a  challenge: this morning is to put together a retirement plan or increase what you put towards retirement so that you may have the chance to find more meaning in your life at retirement rather than improve your golfing handicap.

A Gallup survey on volunteering in the U.S.A. found that 52% of volunteers do it because they like doing something useful and helping others. Another 38% said they enjoy doing volunteer work and feeling good about themselves. Whether you donate money or time, giving back is beneficial--and not just for the recipients. Research has shown that the old adage, “it’s better to give than to receive” is true after all.

Besides feeling good about yourself for doing something for others, giving back is also good for your physical health. 

In a Canadian study, 85% of Ontario volunteers rated their health as "good," compared to 79% of non-volunteers. Only 2% of volunteers reported "poor" health, one-third the amount of non-volunteers who reported the same health status.

Still other studies have shown a relationship between volunteering and increased self-esteem, with volunteers reporting both greater personal empowerment and better health. Doing for others may stimulate the release of endorphins, which has been linked to improve nervous and immune system functions, too.

So, besides improved nervous and immune systems here are some other reasons for volunteering: 
  • Make social connections. Loneliness and boredom are common among retirees, students, and transplants to a new city. Volunteering can relieve this sense of social isolation and help you fill empty hours in the day.
  • Develop and grow as a person. Volunteering is an excellent way to explore your likes and dislikes. If you are interested in a new career, volunteer in the field first to see if you will actually like it. You may find a totally unrelated field is a much better fit for you, one you would never consider if you had not volunteered there first
  • Gain a new perspective. Life can be hard and when you’re feeling down, your problems can seem insurmountable. Volunteering can offer a new perspective—seeing people who are worse off than you are, yet still hanging in there, can help you see your life in a whole new light.
  • Know that you're needed. Feeling needed and appreciated are important, and you may not get that appreciation from your paid work or home life where the things you do are expected or taken for granted. When you volunteer, you realize just how much you are truly needed. Meeting people who need your help is a strong incentive to continue—people are depending on you. If you do not do it, who will?
  • Boost your self-esteem. Many volunteers experience a sense of increased self-esteem and greater self-worth. Helping others makes you feel good about yourself, because you are doing something for someone that they could not do for themselves.

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