Everything You Need to Know About Volunteering Over 50

    Posted: May 3, 2016

    Over the age of fifty but still wanting to add meaning to your future travels? Volunteering is an incredible way to engage on a more personal level with a local community abroad and learn about yourself as a global citizen in the process. No longer just an option for recent graduates and gap year students, we answer common questions about volunteering at a later age.

    Did I miss the boat?

    Many interested volunteers over the age of 50 will ask us if they are even eligible to apply for a volunteering programme. For most volunteering opportunities there is no maximum cut off age meaning that when it comes to eligibility the answer is a definitive yes.

    In fact; having age, experience, and maturity behind you makes older volunteers an incredible asset to the programmes that they are working on. Bringing your skills as well as life experiences with you enriches engagement with both the project and among the volunteer group. Diversity is a key component to any volunteer experience and having a variety of ages and backgrounds among the volunteer group is beneficial to all involved.

    Further Reading: Too Old to Volunteer Abroad? Think Again!

    What is the social environment like?

    One of the biggest concerns regarding joining a volunteer programme over the age of 50 typically revolves around the social aspect of the experience. Will it be a bunch of young people dancing the Macarena late into the night? While group dynamics do vary, most projects end up attracting a variety of age ranges and social preferences. There are typically ample options when it comes to relaxing and enjoying down time.

    Life on project naturally bonds volunteers as everyone is in a similar situation; exploring a new country, engaging in meaningful work, and reflecting upon their personal place in the world. This type of engagement outside of everyday life means that age becomes a background detail holding far less weight than it does back home.

    Will I be comfortable?

    Another typical consideration is the comfort of the volunteering conditions. As an adult volunteer, it is quite typical to be used to having your own space and comfortable living conditions. All projects have quite different living arrangements so finding the right one is an important part of the decision-making process. It is possible though to also upgrade rooms at some locations, meaning that living close to the other volunteers but still having your own space is feasible.

    Will I be able to keep up?

    All projects vary when it comes to the daily physical demands placed on volunteers. Asking about the programme you are interested in will help you learn if the daily workload will be something that you are comfortable with. In general community projects tend to be a bit easier than conservation options, but if nature is what you want to get involved with there are still opportunities that are well suited for volunteers over 50.

    Further Reading: The Joy of Volunteering for Over 50’s

    Our Top 4 Over 50 Volunteering Projects to Join:

    Volunteering with Buddhist Monks in Laos

    Based in Luang Prabang a town renowned for its tranquil atmosphere, a place where the biggest party takes place at the bowling ally, nights are peaceful and days are best enjoyed with a book along the Mekong River.

    The programme involves teaching English to novice monks and community members, volunteers are often paired with one another and work as the head teachers in the classroom (making this great for experienced and new teachers alike).

    Accommodation is provided in double occupancy rooms in a comfortable guesthouse. It is possible to upgrade to a single occupancy room for a bit more personal space while still being located close to the other volunteers.

    Wildlife Research in South Africa Expedition

    For nature lovers, this experience is a wonderful way to get out into the bush without the extreme physical demands of some other conservation volunteer experiences, making it ideal for volunteers over 50. Days are spent using radio telemetry to track the impressive range of animals that live in Karongwe National Park. All tracking is done from the safety and comfort of a 4 wheel vehicle, meaning that long days are not too exhausting.

    Marine Conservation Expedition in the Seychelles

    Days are long and this programme undoubtedly requires a higher level of physical fitness than some of the others, but it is still quite possible to join if you are in good shape.

    Volunteering entails joining one and two dives a day and monitoring the reefs fish and coral species. Volunteers learn survey techniques and contribute to valuable ongoing conservation research taking place on the reef.

    Volunteer Health Care Project in Mexico

    Based in Playa del Carmen this project connects volunteers with local culture while still providing access to modern conveniences if needed. Projects take place out in Playa’s many neighborhoods which are only around 15 minutes from the city center. As a major tourist destination, Playa offers a stunning beach, renowned restaurants, and shopping centers with international options on offer.

    This project also offers the choice of a room upgrade so that volunteers can choose to stay in their own room if preferred.

    Not seeing the right match for you? Look into these other great programmes!

    The answer is simple, if you are over the age of fifty volunteering is still an incredibly viable option. Not only is it a great opportunity, but having experience and wisdom behind your years makes older volunteers a welcome asset to the volunteering experience. Are you over fifty and have volunteered?

    Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.