The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) believes that being over 55 and retired should not be boring. “Boring” can come from a lack of purpose. Volunteering and learning as part of a community can make retirement more interesting.

RSVP Reflections- Why be bored?

First, consider a common Facebook post: a photo comparison between a perfect Pinterest project and a home-made, non-perfect copy, both of which are nestled under the title “I nailed it.” Can you see it? As this post shows, while we can learn new information from the internet very quickly, that learning doesn’t always translate into becoming good at something.

Secondly, in medieval times, guilds — associations/groups of people involved in the same trade — were fairly common. A member advanced through a guild by beginning as an apprentice, then working their way through the ranks to become a journeyman and, finally, a master. These guilds were instrumental in passing on valuable trade skills and for protecting the products they created, and they survived and flourished as the Masters’ experience was passed to new members. Note — it took personal interaction to maintain these guilds’ products and standards.

Together, these two stories illustrate the significance of having a mentor, or a community, with which to learn. Learning within communities helps us put what we learn into practice in an environment with examples and external feedback. With all of the many resources technology gives us (YouTube, Pinterest, DIY channels, etc), it’s very easy to attempt becoming experts on our own. However, individually absorbing information can only take us so far.

In our area, RSVP partners with two organizations that, just like the guilds of old, are focused on leading with experience and passing on knowledge in the context of a community. They are the White Mountain Community Garden (WMCG) and the White Mountain Shooters Association (WMSA).

The WMCG is a great organization for those seeking to improve the quality of their green thumbs, both in education and in practice. Did you know that WMCG had several Master Gardeners and Horticulturists? They can tell you the Latin name of corn, along with its different varieties. They can also clarify the real names of common flowers, which can get confusing in regional areas.

The garden’s benefits aren’t just educational, but they’re physical too. The garden gives you exercise, and you get to reap what you sow. You can work your own bed, or you can help in the community areas and harvest what’s growing. It’s a complete win-win situation.

WMSA, the other organization “leading with experience”, has a huge variety of experienced volunteers who love to share advice on shooting! Their experienced members include professional competitors, such Olympic and Military Regional and National Match competitors, and individuals with other life experience, like retired police officers, Federal Law Enforcement agents and civilian marksmen. WMSA also has various clubs for all ages and competitive types; they always welcome new shooters and volunteers.

These two organizations are fantastic places for senior citizens. In addition, gardening and shooting with these groups involves social interaction and critical thinking skills, both of which help ward off dementia as we age. Even better, these activities are outdoors where social distancing is possible.

By volunteering with the WMCG and WMSA, you would be helping the community and increasing your own learning as you share experiences with others. You can gain enormous amounts of knowledge by volunteering with others. Most people like sharing their passions and their skill set with likeminded people.

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