The Best ‘Jobs’ for Senior Citizens Are Often Labors of Love

Seniors Drinking Coffee

It’s a common scenario: After retiring, people discover they miss the workplace more than they expected. It’s not so much the work itself they miss. It’s the opportunity to connect with others and the sense of purpose.

Seeking out a part-time job is one solution. Volunteering is another. Many older adults find it especially rewarding to put their considerable skills to use while making a difference in their community. That’s true whether they’re helping students at a local school or devoting their time and efforts to an organization that assists those in need.

In some cases, getting involved in local activities can lead to a new career. This time, though, the work isn’t driven by the desire to blaze a trail or the need to provide for one’s family. This time, the motivation comes purely from the heart.

Residents at Heron’s Key Pour Their Passion Into Community Involvement

To say that residents in our community are civic-minded is an understatement. They’ve led full lives, and they’re not about to stop in retirement.

Here at Heron’s Key, you’ll find people who had rich and varied careers; from serving in the C-suite at large corporations; molding young minds at universities; and creating rich bodies of artistic work. Many of those who live here have traveled extensively, exploring other cultures and interacting with people from around the world.

They don’t come here to quit.

Instead, they draw upon all of that life experience to improve circumstances for others—both within our immediate community and the greater Gig Harbor community.

Senior Living Makes It Possible

Moving to a retirement community like Heron’s Key gives older adults more time to commit to the causes they value most. Rather than expending their energy on home upkeep and maintaining a yard, they can focus on doing more of what they enjoy.

For some, that means expanding their circle of friends and their social life through activities created specifically for seniors. For others, it means more opportunities to have a meaningful impact on the world around them.

Helping Out Around Gig Harbor

Although COVID-19 curtailed many activities, residents of Heron’s Key have participated in numerous programs and events to benefit people throughout Gig Harbor in the past. Fortunately, many of those possibilities are opening up again.

These are a sampling of past and present volunteer opportunities that residents have supported:

  • Food Backpacks 4 Kids. Heron’s Key holds a food drive for this organization each year, and many residents are involved in the effort. The organization relies on donations to meet its mission of being a stable source of healthy foods for hungry children and families when other resources are not available. Staff and residents from Heron’s Key will be touring the new building for the Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank and Community Services in September.
  • Race for a Soldier. The Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation hosts this annual marathon event to provide mental, emotional and spiritual support for veterans and first responders. Residents who are up to the challenge of running the 5K or the half-marathon participate in person. Others have the option of participating in the virtual marathon.
  • Flower Basket Program. Every spring, the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance recruits sponsors and volunteers to maintain the hanging flower baskets that adorn the downtown waterfront district throughout the summer. One resident at Heron’s Key in particular was involved with this program for a number of years.
  • Rotary Club of Gig Harbor. Several residents are members of this well-known organization, and one of the local groups meets here at Heron’s Key.
  • Peninsula Art League. In addition to bringing together all kinds of artists from across the region, this group hosts the ever-popular Summer Art Festival in downtown Gig Harbor.
  • Tacoma Rescue Mission. Residents have made fleece hats and sandwiches for the mission, which is a shelter for men and families with children who are experiencing homelessness.
  • Peninsula School District. Before the pandemic, some Heron’s Key residents were involved in a reading program for students.

Residents have also collected eye glasses and hearing aids for the Lions Club vision program; donated clothing for women at the Washington Corrections Center for Women to help them return to their communities; and given Christmas presents to the Children’s Home Society of Washington and Communities in Schools of Peninsula.

On a Mission

While many residents rise to the occasion when a special funding drive or volunteer event is going on, others make it more of a personal pursuit to enrich the lives of people in the local community.

For example, there’s Marilyn Colyar and Peter Bulkeley, two residents who’ve made a big difference in the lives of local students through The Scholarship Group. The group was formed in 2018 under Peter’s leadership, and Marilyn got involved after she moved to Heron’s Key in 2020. The group has been quite successful in raising funds for scholarships.

Marilyn is also involved in the Gig Harbor chapter of Together Women Rise, a group dedicated to achieving global gender equality, and she takes an active role in city government.

Another resident, Anne Delaney, chairs the Volunteer Group at Heron’s Key. She and other volunteers spearhead events and drives on campus throughout the year to benefit various organizations, coming up with creative ideas to spark friendly competitions. While some of those efforts were mentioned in the section above, there are too many to provide a complete listing in this post.

Pitching in Closer to Home

Volunteering is among the most popular activities for seniors in most retirement communities. You don’t have to look too hard to see how popular it is here at Heron’s Key. You don’t have to look too far, either.

For instance, you’ll find residents lending a hand (and their expertise) to their neighbors on a regular basis at the computer help desk. Others get involved in planning an interesting and informative session for our Lifelong Learning program. And before COVID-19 restrictions, vetted volunteers from our independent living neighborhood visited with residents in assisted living and memory care at Penrose Harbor. We’re thankful to gradually be getting back to that again because the visits mean so much to residents on “both sides.”

Residents found creative ways to help out even during the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions, whether it was by delivering meals from Syren’s Grille to their neighbors’ front doors or wiping down surfaces in the common areas several times a day in the early months of the pandemic.

Where Will You Find Your Next ‘Job’?

As you can see, there are almost limitless ways to become involved in your community after retiring. We’ve only touched upon a fraction of them.

Maybe you want to become a mentor and help put a student on the path to success. Or, you could volunteer at the local library or serve as a poll worker during elections. No matter where your interests and passions lie, there’s a group or organization that could benefit from your time and participation.

As you scout out retirement communities in Washington state to see which ones might be a good fit, ask about their resident-led volunteer activities. The responses you receive can tell you a lot about the nature of the community and those who live there.

While you’re here, we encourage you to learn about the active lifestyle you could enjoy at Heron’s Key. You can also check out our independent living activity calendar to see what types of activities regularly take place in our community. Then, if you’re interested, we’d be happy to help you experience Heron’s Key in person or virtually.