Four projects that are perfect for senior volunteers

    Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Posted: February 3, 2020

    With 60 being the new 40, the spunk of senior volunteers is making waves in the world of volunteering abroad. 

    Senior volunteers can bring scores of life experience to the environmental and social issues that affect us all, and that’s something that can’t be taught! You can use this experience to make an impact by volunteering in your senior years.

    Why it’s great to volunteer in your senior years

    With a treasury of practical and personal skills, it’s no wonder that senior volunteers were recognised as a talented resource in a community-based reminiscence and creativity intervention in America in 2016.

    In the world of volunteering, studies have shown that seniors may be more altruistic than younger volunteers, and this seems to make them more generous in the way they assist others. This may heighten the volunteering experience for senior participants, and make volunteering a more positive, productive and meaningful experience for them.



    As an active senior, you may be excited by the chance to be more energetic on a senior volunteer program than you would be at home. You could gain great benefits from this, since studies show that volunteering can improve the health of volunteers. But, the benefits come from more than just upping your physical ante.

    Senior volunteer programs take you into nature, which can do wonders for your health by giving you the chance to spend extra time outdoors.

    And for those looking for a retired senior volunteer program, there’s even more good news. Regular volunteering has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia in retired seniors.

    So there’s every reason to give senior volunteer programs a go.



    These projects are perfect for you

    If you’re keen on volunteering abroad, you’re probably looking to make a positive impact in the world, to find some adventure, or to add more meaning to daily life.    

    Well there are plenty of ways for you to do all of that.

    1) Contribute to community development in South Africa


    Many senior volunteers find community development programs appealing.

    Community development projects include teaching and women’s empowerment opportunities that require less physical exertion than more intensive programs – like taking part in a wildlife conservation project in the South African bushveld – while still allowing you to make a positive impact. 

    Find yourself volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa and you could assist teachers with lessons in literacy or numeracy, host educational workshops for community members, or even take part in storytelling sessions at schools or community centres. 

    Each project contributes to local development, and with the proper support from both volunteers and local people, societal strengths can be magnified, and communities can thrive

    And of course, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Cape Town – a city topping many a travel list – during your free time. 

    But perhaps you prefer a forested affair to a sea-side retreat? 

    2) Promote public health in Cambodia


    With most of the country draped in forests, Cambodia has been described as having a wealth of biodiversity and natural beauty. And this volunteer destination has heaps of opportunities for you to lend a helping hand in promoting public health.

    Public health projects in Cambodia can give you the opportunity to get a taste for health promotion – the process of helping people to increase their control over, and improve their health – or to apply years of healthcare experience in an entirely new setting.

    To be able to deliver effective health promotion we need enough man-power. This is because not having enough people in the field reduces the productivity, and sustainability, of these important programs. 

    In the Cambodian countryside, more volunteers means more preventative healthcare services. And this goes a long way in promoting public health. 

    And health promotion in Cambodia isn’t only for healthcare experts, all volunteers are trained by local staff to get them up to scratch on the tasks at hand, under the guidance of our ethical stance on medical volunteering.  

    Community workshops form the basis of public health projects in Cambodia and volunteers are key in conducting these, covering topics like the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation practices. You may be working with children, teens or adults, depending on the needs of the community.

    But if what you really want is to make a positive impact with animals? There are lots of options in that field too.

    3) Assist with animal care in Greece


    You may have interacted with animals for work, as part of other volunteer projects, or even as a pet owner. If you’re looking to volunteer in this field, you’ll know how important it is to interact with animals in the right way. When it comes to our furry, feathered or scaly friends, our ethical stance is unwavering. 

    A testament to this is the diverse range of ethical animal care or wildlife conservation projects on offer in places like Greece.

    In the Grecian Gulf of Kyparissia lies one of the most important loggerhead turtle nesting areas in the southern European region. Here you’ll have amazing opportunities to work with adult loggerhead turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs, and loggerhead hatchlings that’ll have you waiting with bated breath for them to pop out of their sandy nests. 

    Your duties would include biological surveying of the turtles for conservation records, as well as assisting the adult and hatchling turtles during their journey from sea to sand and back again.

    Working as a team ensures that there are always enough hands to help with measuring a hefty adult turtle, or herding scrambling baby sea turtles in the right direction.

    And team-work can come in handy when trying to spot an elephant in the rainforests of Thailand.

    4) Work towards wildlife conservation in Thailand


    One type of animal you may not have had much interaction with is a Thai elephant. And, if you have worked with them before, you’ll know that their troubled past has made it imperative to work towards their preservation in the future.

    GVI projects offering volunteering with elephants in Thailand look to reintegrate elephants back into their natural environments after their release from working in the tourism industry. 

    Working with elephants in the rainforests of Thailand requires some superior fitness. So this opportunity is best suited to the marathon runner, the serious cyclist, the avid trail blazer, and perhaps the energetic optimist. 

    But whether you run circles around our ground staff, or saunter steadily by their sides, senior volunteer programs provide loads of support throughout your volunteer abroad experience.

    There’s really no time like the present to get to those bucket list dreams. Find the senior volunteer program that’s perfect for you, and forge even more meaning into your future.

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is an intern at the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.


    By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.