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Photo of Andrew and pet dog Max

Flexibility, meaning, and an unexpected income: Retiree Andrew discovers the many benefits of volunteering

Just because you stop working doesn’t mean you stop loving what you do. For Andrew, retirement didn’t mean abandoning the skills he acquired from a career as an IT trainer. Instead, he applied them to volunteer work with Feros Care’s Virtual Social Centre (VSC), discovering an outlet for his teaching skills and natural sociability.

What’s more, as an Australian over 60, Andrew learned that Centrelink provides financial compensation for volunteer work.

“Retirement was a change of life, but not the end of life,” reflects Andrew.

His story is a refreshing reminder that retirement is an opportunity to control your own hours and choose meaningful work.

Not ready to quit

For an outgoing, kind-hearted country boy from Toowoomba, retirement felt like a sharp halt to the dynamic day-to-day of Andrew’s career. With a unique combination of charisma and an aptness for technology, he worked as a computer technician, TAFE instructor, and support analyst for more than 20 years.

“Training was my love, and my personality type has always been a helper,” Andrew says.

After leaving his last role, Andrew wasn’t ready to retire but struggled to find a job he enjoyed. He also faced discrimination for his age.

That’s when he discovered that retired Australians over 60 can meet Centrelink’s mutual obligation requirements by volunteering for 30 hours every fortnight. In other words, he learned that volunteering wouldn’t just fill his cup, but also be a source of income.

“Volunteering provides me with enough money to get by and not dip into savings,” he says.

Finding the right volunteering fit

Andrew started volunteering for the RSPCA Op Shop, testing electronics in the backroom. It wasn’t long before he missed working with people face-to-face, and the flexibility to travel with his wife.

“I thought to myself, how can I go away but still get my 30 hours,” he says.

After a quick scroll through SEEK, Andrew found a volunteer opportunity for Feros Care’s VSC, an easy-to-use online platform for seniors to learn, have fun, and make new friends.

“I’d never seen anything quite like it,” he reflects.

The VSC allows seniors to access online book clubs, exercise classes, coffee chats, and more to help them feel connected and stay active from the comfort of their home.

A flexible option

Andrew started as a moderator, working behind the scenes to help sessions run smoothly.

Through moderating, he noticed there weren’t many sessions aimed at men. So, he offered to host a new session called ‘The Man Cave’, a safe space for men to chat about different topics and feelings.

“It just took off,” says Andrew, “So I asked – is there anything else I can do?”

It wasn’t long before he started hosting three chat-based sessions: ‘The Man Cave’, ‘The Coffee Crew’, and ‘The Lunch Room’. His beloved spoodle (cocker spaniel cross poodle) Max even helps on-camera from time to time!

Between hosting and moderating, Andrew meets Centrelink’s 30 hours per fortnight quota. And, as he only needs his laptop and Wi-Fi, he can even volunteer while visiting the grandkids!

Embracing old and new skills

As a host, Andrew uses the public speaking and people skills from his working years to help seniors, specifically men, interact with one another.

“My goal is to have fun in sessions,” Andrew explains. “Some of the participants are in pain or sick. My goal is to take their mind off this pain.”

The VSC also has also helped him develop new skills that benefit his volunteer work – and his personal relationships. “As a VSC volunteer, I have learned how to listen more and not try to ‘fix’ all the time,” he shares.

Supportive staff

To anyone who is retired, Andrew wholeheartedly recommends volunteering for the VSC.

“I can’t sing the pros of the VSC enough,” says Andrew. “You’ve got passionate staff who make you feel important, and I never felt like I was dumped in the deep end.”

To start moderating, you don’t need any previous skills.

“If you know how to use a browser and you’ve done a Zoom call, you’ll be fine,” he says.

To start hosting, moderating can be a great first step to see what classes are offered and learn what you can bring to the table.

More time for what matters

Andrew’s flexible and meaningful volunteer role with Feros Care’s Virtual Social Centre (VSC) gives him the time and energy to focus on the other things that bring him joy. Moments like riding through the countryside on his 1000CC three-wheeled motorcycle, and spending time with his wife, children, and four beautiful grandkids.

Oh, and taking Max on lots of walks – of course!

To find out more about volunteering for the Virtual Social Centre, or joining as a participant, check out our Virtual Social Centre page.

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