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Older volunteer Stefan with his host parents in Mongolia

5 Benefits of Volunteering Abroad for Older Adults

Discover the best volunteer abroad programmes for seniors

By Thom Brown | 22nd August, 2023

Travel is far from a young person’s game with over 60s making up more than 45% of travellers.

But do you seek meaningful adventures? Then you should consider an immersive volunteer abroad opportunity for older adults.

Below, discover why volunteering abroad is suitable for all ages. Find the perfect trip for you!

1) Volunteering abroad benefits your brain

As you age, you know to take care of your physical health. But increasingly, the biggest risk to older adults is cognitive. Over 55 million people worldwide live with dementia but did you know that volunteering could help prevent these kinds of conditions?

Acts of service provide a sense of purpose, which is great for the brain. As you help those in need, your brain releases dopamine, lowering stress. Furthermore, the tasks involved engage your thinking skills. The more you use your brain, the stronger it’ll be.

Volunteering is just like doing sudoku, except it can change people’s lives.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara

Sara was 65 when she took the leap and spent almost an entire year volunteering with Projects Abroad. Not wanting to waste the time she has left, she bravely travelled the world to help those in need.

Sara’s helped migrants in Mexico, cared for the animals of the Amazon, taught monks in Sri Lanka, and scuba-dived among the coral reefs of Thailand. She really is an inspiration, proving that age is no barrier to adventure.

Read Sara’s story >

2) Volunteering as an older adult improves your social life

A group of Grown-up Special volunteers finish painting

Over a third of over 45s feel lonely and social isolation poses a risk to your health. But by volunteering abroad, you can easily meet new people. From the second you sign up, you’ll become part of the 132,000-strong Projects Abroad community.

Wherever you go on your volunteer holiday, you’ll meet other travellers who have joined us. They could come from a range of countries like Canada, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. Who will you meet on your travels?

As an older volunteer abroad, you can join your fellow travellers for tours, cultural events, and meals in local restaurants. That’s not to mention the countless staff and local people you’ll encounter.

The connections you make on a volunteer trip abroad will stay with you for years to come. You’ll build a global network of friends you can rely on.

3) Adventure gives your life meaning

If you’re seeking a more adventurous lifestyle, you’re not alone. It can be easy to feel caught up in the monotony of daily life. This can be particularly true if you’re retired. Perhaps the time has come to leave your comfort zone and venture into the unknown.

At every stage of life, you need variety, excitement, and learning. At the same time, you want to travel without fear. Our trips offer adventures that are hassle-free with 24/7 staff support. This gives you the freedom to focus on satisfying your wanderlust.

Read more: Best volunteer programmes for over 50s >

Volunteer Spotlight: Chetna

Chetna, 50, spent three months in Sri Lanka. She used her wealth of experience with computers to teach IT skills to disadvantaged children. Chetna was also able to offer career advice and help students write CVs.

She found meaning in opening up opportunities for hundreds of children and steering them away from the temptations of crime.

4) Connect with new cultures as an older volunteer

Benefits of volunteering: cultural immersion in Nepal

We’ve helped countless older adults travel the world. When we do, it’s clear they’re looking for something deeper than typical tourist trips.

We offer immersive trips that provide authentic insight into other cultures. Helping others is incredibly fulfilling, but it’s even more worthwhile when their culture leaves a lasting impact on you.

By volunteering as an older adult, you could:

  • Learn Swahili with the Maasai in Tanzania
  • Dance to the West African drumbeat in Ghana
  • Stay in a ger with nomads on the wild steppe of Mongolia
  • Discover ancient civilizations at Machu Picchu in Peru

Through experiences like these, you’ll nurture a deep connection to diverse cultures. This can help you develop empathy and awareness of global issues. You’ll return home with a new perspective on life.

5) Leave a lasting and meaningful impact

Volunteering for seniors can have the greatest impact on communities. That's because older adults have decades of skills, life experience, and wisdom to draw on. With your expertise, you can rest assured that your work will be meaningful and long-lasting.

Volunteer Spotlight: Ian

Ian, 45, travelled to Mongolia for three months. He used his experience to support a software company in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. Ian learned how companies in developing countries are able to work on tight budgets and with limited resources.

At the same time, he helped them improve their processes and increase their market share. Ian left Mongolia knowing he had made a difference.

Volunteering for retirees

Older volunteer in Fiji

Many retirees are looking to re-spark the passion they had for their former careers. You’ve spent decades honing your skills and now you want to give back. We have plenty of projects for professionals – these would suit someone like you!

By finding a project that matches your experience, you can leave an even greater impact. People like you are in great demand across the world.

But if you want to try something new, that’s okay too! Many of our projects don’t require experience. Local staff will guide you and help ensure you leave a meaningful impact.

Read more: Volunteering opportunities for retirees >

Aged 50+? Our Grown-up Specials are for you!

Volunteering abroad for over 50s is more popular than ever. That's why we've created bespoke trips, specifically for this age group. Our Grown-up Specials are structured trips with set itineraries.

You’ll join a group of other senior volunteers so you’ll have friends to explore with. Our Grown-up Specials have no requirements other than – you guessed it – being over 50. They’re perfect whether you’re utilising your skills or trying your hand at something new.

Best volunteering for over 50s:

Nervous about volunteering for the first time, I focused on the Grown-up Specials. It was comforting knowing that I would be with people who were a similar age to me.

My two weeks volunteering in Nepal exposed me to so many experiences that I may never have had as a tourist.

I returned home with gratitude for the friends that I made and for the good times we shared as a group. My kids are now a little jealous of me! - Beth S, Childcare Grown-up Special in Nepal

Browse Grown-up Specials: Volunteer opportunities for over 50s >

Flexible volunteering for older adults

Older volunteer receiving his t-shirt

While many older volunteers enjoy the structure of a Grown-up Special, you may be looking for more independence and flexibility. Our Flexi Trips are for anyone over 16 and allow a greater degree of freedom.

This means you can choose your start date and duration. You’ll also meet volunteers of all ages and will have more opportunities to travel independently.

The best volunteer abroad programmes for older adults:

Our Flexi programmes offer a greater range of options and increased independence. But rest assured that you’ll enjoy round-the-clock support and can network with other travellers. In fact, it’s the perfect opportunity for different generations to connect over a common goal.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to volunteer overseas. At 64, I decided it was about time I did something about this… at least I wouldn’t look back and think “I wish I had…”

I’ve travelled a lot in developing countries, but I wanted to be more than a tourist… I also wanted to give something back. - Kathryn C, Teaching  Flexi Trip in Tanzania

Start your journey

Volunteering abroad as an older adult is full of amazing benefits. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover new cultures, provide support to those in need, and join a meaningful adventure.

Take the leap: Embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery. Browse our projects now or book a free consultation.

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