News release Enjoy retirement

What attracts volunteers? RTOERO survey highlights desire to make a difference, use and learn skills, and build social interactions 

For the good of its communities and organizations, Canada needs a deep culture of volunteering. That spirit is strong within RTOERO, according to a new survey. It found that 79% of members surveyed currently volunteer, not including the time they give to RTOERO.  

Since 1968, RTOERO has been a voice for teachers, school and board administrators, educational support staff, the early years and college and university faculty in their retirement. Our mission is to be a bilingual trusted voice on healthy active living in the retirement journey. We deliver world-class programs, social engagement and political advocacy. 

In advance of this year’s National Volunteer Week (April 14-20), RTOERO surveyed its 84,000 members about how and why they volunteer. For most members, volunteering in retirement continues a tradition of giving back.  

The survey showed that 73% of RTOERO members volunteered when they were in the workforce. Now, in retirement, those who volunteer do so for an average of 21 hours a month.  

As they shared in the survey, members give that time to an incredibly diverse range of causes, from health care to historical societies, food banks to the local library, and arts festivals to environmental groups. They raise funds for charities, drive older neighbours to appointments, work in hospital gift shops, run community theatres, facilitate grief groups, help refugees to settle, and tutor and mentor young people. Almost 1 in 10 members (9%) also volunteer for RTOERO. 

“In their professional lives and in retirement, our members have always been engaged in community-building. Collectively, by sharing their time and energy, they help to create positive change and address some of our most critical social challenges,” says Martha Foster, chair of RTOERO. 

Benefits flow to those who volunteer too. Volunteering contributes to personal wellness and a sense of belonging. In the survey, three-quarters of respondents (74%) agreed that volunteering contributes to the enjoyment of their retirement. 

What drives them to volunteer? Of those who do so with RTOERO, 62% cited a desire to make a difference, 61% said the social interactions, and 51% said the opportunity to make new friends or meet new people.  

Volunteering can also be another outlet to enjoy what you like doing and are good at. In the survey, 58% of members said their volunteer role matched their personal interests, and 57% said the volunteer role suited their skills.  

As one member stated in the survey, “Volunteering provides me with meaningful ways to contribute. I’m grateful to be able to work with other like-minded seniors to help others in my community.” Others said that volunteering “helps fill the need for relevance”, “adds purpose” and provides “an emotional high”. Yet another said “It keeps my mind active and my mental health strong. All studies suggest that volunteers live longer, healthier and happier lives.” 

There are sometimes perceived barriers to volunteering, like feeling you do not have the right abilities. But you can always pick them up. In fact, 21% of RTOERO volunteers were attracted by the opportunity to learn a new skill.  

Another common obstacle is the belief that volunteering takes too much time or means a long-term commitment. While some RTOERO members volunteer as much as 50 hours a month, some spend just an hour a month. There are volunteer opportunities to suit any schedule or interest. 

For any organization looking to bolster their volunteer contingent, the survey revealed this tip: if you want more volunteers, just ask. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) said they became a volunteer because they were invited to. 

“As our members show every day, volunteering is major contributor to both community wellness and their individual well-being,” says Martha Foster, chair of RTOERO. 

RTOERO is a bilingual trusted voice on healthy, active living in the retirement journey for the broader education community. With 84,000+ members in 51 districts across Canada, we are the largest national provider of non-profit group health benefits for education workers and retirees. We welcome members who work in or are retired from the early years, schools and school boards, post-secondary and any other capacity in education. We believe in a better future, together! 

RTOERO media contact: 

Danielle Norris, Director of Marketing & Communications and Member Services, [email protected], (work) 416-962-9463 ext. 224