9 Reasons You Should Volunteer Abroad Over 50

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We're here to help you find meaningful volunteer work abroad for older adults

Retirement and the launch of your golden years. It’s what we’re all striving toward and you’ve finally made it – way to go! Or maybe you’re still a few years out from hitting those glorious years where you’re not clocking in for a 9 to 5, but you’re still interested in learning more about what it’s like to volunteer abroad over 50. Whether you have a lot of free time on your hands or you’re already dreaming about what to do during retirement, it’s never too early to start thinking about volunteer opportunities for retirees.

man and woman sitting on bench
You’ve finally made it to retirement, but the idea of just relaxing is giving you anxiety. Our solution? Volunteer abroad.

Picture this: there you are scrolling through your social media feed when another photo of your child’s adventure abroad pops up. You keep scrolling and what do you see? A former co-worker is back from their trip abroad – for the third time this year! While their pictures are hopefully meant to share their experience, and not inspire envy, it’s hard to not feel curious about their adventure and hope to have a similar one. Rather than gallivanting around the world to collect photos of the most beautiful beaches or UNESCO world heritage sites, why not bring some meaning into your travel by volunteering after retirement?

Here's why you should consider voluntary work abroad for over 50s

Here are nine reasons why you should consider participating in volunteer opportunities for retirees (and information on how to find the best way to volunteer abroad over 50):

1. You Have A Lot to Offer

When you look back on your career, what do you see? Were you a stellar manager? A creative who inspired others on the daily? A small business owner who learned how to stick it out and make it work? Maybe you taught in a classroom, you are a leader in your community, or you are part of a religious group. Whatever you did in your past, you can leverage that experience in your future as a retiree volunteer abroad.

While you may be saying to yourself that volunteering abroad is for younger people who have the energy and enthusiasm, you should also say to yourself that they’re lacking something you’ve got in spades – experience. Difficult teams or co-workers? You’ve been there. Navigating complicated project design and implementation? You thrived on it. Tap into your vast fount of practical knowledge and put it to good use for your global community.

You can start by picking a country from our list, like Morocco or the Phillipines, or maybe you’d rather choose what to do during retirement by sector, like nursing or organic farming.

Remember, energy and enthusiasm can be conjured – real experience can’t be replicated.

camel caravan through the desert
Why should the kids have all the fun? You should go on your own adventures!

2. You Have the Time

How did it feel when you turned in your notice for the last “real” job you will ever have? (No really, we want to know - Please describe it in the comments below or send us a message!). We can imagine it felt great, but also a little full of uncertainty. Maybe you’d been planning your retirement for years and had a laundry list of must-dos to accomplish. Maybe you put off planning until you had the time – like when you were retired. Regardless, now that you’re here, time is no longer a barrier.

Have you always been curious what it’s like to live in South Africa? Try volunteering after retirement there for a while. You can test the waters with a shorter-term program (think one to two months) and if you like it, you can always try a longer program. Maybe you’ll jet off to volunteer in another country in the region after your short-term program, like Mozambique, or maybe a different continent entirely!

3. You Are Needed

Not to get sappy on you, but there really are people and organizations out there just waiting for someone like you to seek them out and support their work. Have you been contributing money to a favorite charity for years? Why not give them something else (if not even more) precious? Your time. By volunteering abroad, you’ll get to be on the front lines of where your donations go. How much more rewarding can it get?

4. It’s Time You Brushed Off Your High School [Insert Language] Skills

Even though my Mom and Dad went to different high schools, they both have the same French dialogue memorized. “Allons, debout, ne restez pas dans la neige!”  While it’s unlikely you’ll have the opportunity to shout out to a colleague, “Come on, get up, don’t stay in the snow!”  during any volunteer programs for retirees, we bet there are a few other phrases you can remember from your high school or college language courses that will serve you well.

5. Eat, Pray, Love Isn’t the Only Way International Travel Happens

Does reading about other people’s experiences abroad make you nostalgic for your own travels from your formative years or make you want to kickstart your own adventure? You can follow in the footsteps of Eat, Pray, Love by volunteering after retirement in Italy, India, or Indonesia, or you can blaze your own trail by going somewhere your heart has always had a desire to go.

smiling older man with power saw in his hand
You’ve got years of experience and a toolkit that is the envy of all your neighbors, so check out some construction volunteer projects!

6. The Real Life Adventure is Better than the Movie

Casablanca. Roman Holiday. From Russia with Love. Madagascar. You know how they say the movie is never as good as the book? Well, the actual experience of volunteering abroad is better than the book and the movie combined. Be the star of your own volunteer adventure; just pick a country, whether it has been featured in film or not, and set off to find out the plot!

7. Your Nest is Empty, So Maybe You Should Head Out Too

If you’re searching for empty nester activities, you’ve come to the right place. You are having to adjust to a new normal as your children begin to lead their own, independent lives, and it’s not easy. For the past 20 to 25 years (if not more), your life probably bounced to a rhythm dictated by somewhat helpless children depending on you. While they may still be helpless (and depending on you, for that matter), they’re no longer in your home and no longer having (as much of) an influence on your daily routine. So shake the dust off your passport and start searching for volunteer opportunities for retirees!

8. You Will Expand Your Social Network

OK, OK. Maybe you want to actually be whittling down the number of people you send your holiday cards to. That’s totally fine – because the people you meet while volunteering abroad may not really care about receiving your card anyway! From locals to expats to other silver foxes, the people you’ll meet as a volunteer abroad over 50 won’t be worried about an annual recap; they will care about making a meaningful connection with you and hearing about your adventures as they take place.

front facing attached homes
The nest is empty, so what are you waiting for? Find your perfect volunteer program and start making your Golden Years count!

3 best volunteer abroad programs for older adults

1. Teach English in Costa Rica with IVHQ

There are a host of English teaching opportunities in and around the most metropolitan area of beautiful Costa Rica. This lively capital city offers volunteers the opportunity to teach and tutor both younger students and adult learners. You will have the opportunity to conduct your own workshops while working hand in hand with local teachers. 

2. Conserve Elephants in Thailand with Love Volunteers

The classic volunteer with elephants in Thailand gig. Located in the little-known Thai village of Surin, this is an immersive, locally-driven program. Volunteers work with local communities and formerly neglected and abused elephants recovering from time in the tourism industry. Through the program, mahouts (elephant caretakers) are offered sustainable income-generating opportunities as alternatives to profitable—but devastating—alternatives to making money from the elephants they look after.

3. Empower Women in India with Volunteering Journeys

Use your wisdom and knowledge built from the last few decades of life to improve the lives of countless women and young girls in India. Many women are still seen as belonging to a lower social class in Indian culture, and don’t have many of the same educational and professional opportunities available to men. 

Volunteer in shelters and girls’ schools to empower them with the skills and confidence they need to succeed!

Here's to volunteering overseas for over 50s!

We’ve given you a pretty comprehensive list of reasons why you should consider adult volunteer abroad. So, why don’t we balance out the list with a few reasons why you shouldn’t.

There are an endless number of reasons you should find volunteer work abroad for over 60s (or 50s). We’ve only listed nine above, so there are certainly a few reasons missing. Whether you want to find adventure as a volunteer over 50 in New Zealand or contribute your experience in social work as a volunteer abroad, your next (or maybe your first!) international experience is truly only a click away.

Maybe you saw something in a National Geographic article that piqued your interest. Maybe you want to return to somewhere you visited before as a tourist to give back as a volunteer. Maybe you just want an adventure abroad that feels more altruistic. Whatever the reason, we hope you find a volunteer program that fits your needs and makes volunteering after retirement everything you hoped for – maybe you’ll even take your golden years to platinum level!

Browse all opportunities to volunteer abroad over 50