Opinion: Dear Susi Q

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Martha Hernandez, director of care management at the Susi Q.

Dear Susi Q: I’ve just retired. I want to volunteer but I don’t know what might suit me or where to start looking. Do you have any ideas for me? I’m 65, still fit, with some limitations. — Volunteer wanna-be

Dear Volunteer Wanna-be:

Good for you! Volunteering is healthy for the body, soul, and mind, especially once we retire. Human beings need a sense of purpose, and volunteering is a great way to feel productive and give focus to our days. It also offers the opportunity to meet like-minded people and make new connections. This is especially important as we age and grow and lose loved ones, especially spouses.

I’d suggest making a checklist, starting with your passions and interests. First, what appeals to you most? Helping seniors live their best life? Bringing joy to children? Taking care of animals? Or saving the environment? Laguna Beach has many nonprofits that could use your help

Second, what is your skill set? Were you a working parent, juggling schedules and participating in many activities, giving you expertise in managing a range of responsibilities? That ability could be invaluable to a nonprofit.

Third, what are your limitations—for example, how physically fit are you? What are your time limitations? Is transportation an issue?

This will help you find the best fit as you consider different opportunities. Check out local media to learn more about nonprofits’ mission statements and their needs. Search engines are also your friend! Also, the Susi Q offers support groups such as Heart to Heart, which I facilitate on Mondays, where we talk about the challenges of growing older and finding new interests. Visit thesusiq.org to learn more.

It can be invigorating to get involved in a project that’s very different from your past profession—perhaps you’re an accountant who has always been fascinated by the ocean, but know nothing about seals and sea lions—helping the Pacific Marine Mammal Center could be just the ticket for you to expand your knowledge and gain a sense of accomplishment. Another great nonprofit connects older adults with children in need of tutoring, life-enriching opportunities, and self-confidence building. Visit parentisfoundation.org to learn more.

Martha Hernandez, director of care management at the Susi Q, has additional suggestions below! Consider a conversation with her to start your quest. — Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, clinical supervisor of behavioral Health Programs at the Susi Q; owner of lagunabeachcounseling.com.

Kay’s advice makes a lot of sense! Retirees often find that it’s useful to talk through their thoughts about volunteer opportunities, and I’m here to help. One of my greatest joys is seeing a wonderful match between a retiree and a nonprofit. For example, the Assistance League’s Early Intervention Program seeks volunteers to hold and cuddle developmentally-delayed babies while their parents take part in discussions about how best to care for these wonderful little people. Several volunteers have told me how incredibly rewarding they have found rocking the babies to be—one volunteer had never had children, and found the experience to be a joy she couldn’t have begun to imagine.

The Susi Q itself, of course, is always in search of volunteers to help with our Lifelong Laguna program, which helps seniors age in place. There are volunteer opportunities to fit your specific background and skillset—for example, retired contractors can evaluate bids a senior receives for needed repairs; “friendly visiting” is especially important and helps you and the senior build a lasting friendship and bond with others; and picking up groceries for vulnerable older adults is another way to help. We also need volunteers to assist with office work and event planning. If you love cats, think about volunteering to pet senior cats a couple of hours a week at Blue Bell Foundation for Cats. The Animal Shelter often looks for volunteers. Would you enjoy being a docent at the Laguna Art Museum or leading hikes for the Laguna Canyon Foundation?

Nearly all nonprofits offer training for volunteers, so there’s no need to feel intimidated! Volunteering is one of the most healing, psychologically rewarding activities that retired people can undertake. Call and let’s chat about your background and your passions and what might work for you!

—Martha Hernandez, LCSW, director of care management. Contact [email protected] or call 949-715-8104.

“Dear Susi Q,” brought to you by nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors, is intended to provide helpful advice from qualified staff and support group leaders to readers on matters including relationships, retirement, home safety, transportation, mental/physical health, and local entertainment and educational resources. Please send questions to [email protected]. No identifying names will ever be used.

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