“To the world you are one person, but to one person—you are the world.”   A sense of belonging, of being useful and having a purpose in life is one of our most basic human needs according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Pastor Rick Warren in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, talks about the personal satisfaction and peace of mind that is achieved when human beings have a sense of purpose. We all need to feel wanted, loved, remembered, and involved. We have personal goals and dreams to pursue.

The current generation of aging adults, Boomers and beyond, who have voluntarily elected to withdraw from the workforce are realizing that they need to stay active and engaged in their communities to feel personally valuable, and to maintain mental and physical wellness. They want to feel appreciated for their career contributions, but it is time to fulfill their goals of a more leisurely-paced lifestyle. The majority of Boomers believe that retirement will fulfill their needs for rest, relaxation and restoration of their minds, bodies and souls. It is equally important to maintain our sense of self-worth by feeling useful to other people in their lives and in their communities.


Historically speaking, retirement is a relatively young concept in America. It started with Social Security, when “retiring” quickly became an acceptable alternative lifestyle for aging parents and grandparents who wanted to quit going to work day after day. They were motivated to leave the workforce with expectations that they would have enough income to enjoy retirement and live comfortably for the rest of their lives.   They were ready to let the younger generations “change the world” while they enjoyed a well-deserved permanent vacation from their obligatory careers.


The American economy has changed significantly since the beginning of Social Security. Many of today’s Boomers are figuring out that they do not enjoy retirement as much as they had anticipated, or that their retirement income is not going to last as long as they had planned. As a result, there are Boomers returning to the workforce, either temporarily or on a part-time basis, to continue earning an income. For those Boomers who planned a well-funded retirement, some are finding volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations or in their communities that can fulfill their basic human need for a sense of purpose and charity by donating some of their free time or career expertise to a meaningful cause. Voluntarism is a way that Boomers can give back and feel useful by serving the needs of others while satisfying their own need for self-actualization. In a nutshell, volunteering to help others is a good way to feel good about yourself and make a positive difference in someone else’s life.


For more information about volunteering, contact Volunteers of America in Indiana at http://www.voain.org/ or contact your local city or county government offices or chambers of commerce. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities where you can be appreciated.

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