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Retirement Planning Why Baby Boomers Are Drawn to Overseas Volunteering After Retirement

Anna D. Banks

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From teachers teaching English in countries where knowing the language is often a passport out of poverty, as it is the global language of technology, commerce and opportunity, to health care professionals providing their services to impoverished children in developing countries where medical services are often limited, an increasing number of baby boomers are opting for overseas volunteering in countries as diverse as China, Cambodia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, India, Nepal, Rwanda, and Russia, to name just a few, after retirement.

These efforts of doing good in a world filled with inequalities are representative of a phenomenon that is spreading amongst baby boomer retirees. People these days are healthier and live longer compared to the past generations. When asked about what motivates them, most baby boomers (those who were born between 1946 -1964) who choose to volunteer overseas say that they find less fulfillment in spending all their time traveling all year round, or just spend their time grandparenting. They want to utilize at least some of their time to go to less privileged parts of the world doing work that is meaningful and makes a difference to the people they offer their services to.

Many baby boomers also say that since they have had a life that has been plentiful, happy and good, they are just interested in giving back as much as they can, which provides them the sense of satisfaction that they are seeking at this stage of their life. In fact, many even express that they often feel that they get back more when they go on these volunteering trips than those they are providing a helping hand to.

For many baby boomers traveling overseas to do volunteering work is an experience that is quite different from ordinary leisure travel. They often feel that despite often having to undergo and live in less privileged conditions in the places they go to, the close bonds that they are able to form with the people in those countries, whom they would never have known about or have come into contact with ordinarily, is what is so special about the experience.

Many people in this age group who choose to volunteer overseas also say that they no longer find enough fulfillment in the kind of tourism that they have always experienced, such as merely seeing and experiencing places superficially, taking photos, eating exotic cuisines, and so on. Whereas, they find volunteer traveling to be an experience that enables them to see real life, as it exists in many parts of the world. By getting close to the people, sharing in their daily hardships and joys, they get to understand unique cultures, religions, ways of life, and histories. This, in turn, helps them to broaden their own horizons.

Besides, it has been proven that those who give a part of themselves and their time to provide succor to others experience many health benefits themselves, such as lower blood pressure, and lower rates of stress, which enables them to live longer. This largely comes about because it just makes them feel good to witness the positive effect their efforts have on other lives. According to Edward Cayce, the prophet of the 20th century, the meaningfulness of life is linked to offering others the help they need, in the process of which we help ourselves by becoming happy and fulfilled. This is the secret that baby boomers volunteering both overseas and at home are discovering for themselves.

© 2008 Anna D. Banks, GCDF

Anna D. Banks, a passionate advocate for baby boomers in exploring their priorities, planning and setting goals for the next stage of their lives. Assisting her clients to attract and build a professional and personal life consistent with their values is not just a goal of Anna's, it's her passion. Her diverse work experience in business, education and financial services enables her to help the diverse population of baby-boomers with their life, career, and personal finance coaching needs. Anna is currently Adjunct Faculty at Essex County College, where she teaches Career Development & Management.

Author's Note:

Do you have any questions about career development or lifestyle changes for Baby Boomers, which you think others, like you, would want to know the answers? Please place a post on or email your questions to me at


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