Content starts here
AARP AARP States New York Volunteering

Volunteers Make an Impact, Reap Rewards


Her father worked until he was 86; her mother died at 59. Sharon Cramer wanted neither situation for herself, so she retired early and embarked on a fulfilling new chapter as a volunteer.

“It just struck me that if I started retirement at 62, I could really have a lot of energy to put into new things,” says the former professor of exceptional education at what’s now called Buffalo State University, part of the State University of New York system. Cramer, who turns 74 in July, says volunteering enables her “to take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve had and share them with other people in really gratifying ways.”

AARP New York, one of several organizations for which Cramer volunteers, is looking for more people like her as it builds a corps of volunteers to educate New Yorkers about Social Security.

“The way that we make sure that government and every policymaker knows how people feel … is by us going out and doing our education and outreach,” says Beth Finkel, state director for AARP New York. “And we can’t do it without strong volunteers.”

AARP New York has more than 1,300 volunteers statewide who present and advocate on various topics. New recruits, Finkel says, will focus on informing people of all ages about Social Security—everything from basic facts about the program’s financial health to helping younger workers have confidence the program will be there for them.

Finkel says the goal is to help New Yorkers understand what the program means for them, whether they’re in their 20s or 70s. The retirement and disability program’s trust funds could run short of money in 2034 unless Congress acts to shore up the program’s finances, according to the most recent trustees report.

AARP will train volunteers and provide materials to use in presentations to community groups and other organizations.

Volunteering Brings Benefits

New Yorkers say their AARP volunteering gives them a voice and gets results. “It’s important to me to put a face on the issues,” says retired Troy pastor Jim Ketcham, who turns 69 in July. “We just need to get good stories out in front of the decision-makers.”

Research shows that volunteering is good medicine. It can help boost a person’s mental and physical health and create new social connections.

“I personally get a joy out of” volunteering for AARP and other organizations, says Jean Pryor, a retired insurance benefits verifier from Rochester who turns 87 in August. “My mother always taught us about giving back.”

When Patrick Fox, 75, retired 12 years ago from his work as a Roman Catholic lay leader in catechetical and youth ministry in Rochester, he did not want to answer to someone else’s schedule.

“I had done that for 45 years,” he says. With AARP, he says, “you’re invited to engage, but there’s no compulsion.”

Family leave and housing issues in her East Harlem neighborhood of New York City motivated Debra Robles, who turns 66 in August, to begin volunteering before she retired in 2021. It’s a way to stay active, she says, and it “makes me know that I’m making a difference in somebody else’s life, that I’m making change possible for older Americans.”

To learn more about volunteering with AARP New York, visit AARPNY.

Mary Dieter is a writer living in Indiana.

More on Volunteering:

AARPNY Volunteers Telling Our Story

About AARP New York
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.