Older people find new lease of life through volunteering
Age Concern report: ‘Volunteering, self-help and citizenship in later life’
A new report* into volunteering in later life is being launched today at the House of Commons by Age Concern Newcastle and Newcastle University.
Until now, very little has been known about volunteering in later life, yet voluntary bodies often rely on older volunteers. The study offers important new insights into how and why older people choose to volunteer.
More than half of the organisation’s active volunteers surveyed were over 65. Almost half of the volunteers who were aged 55 plus had annual incomes of less than £10,000.
Professor Jane Wheelock of Newcastle University said: “This research fills the gaps in our understanding of the huge contribution that older people make to voluntary organisations. Volunteering is a great way for older people to stay active after they retire, make new friends and learn new skills.”
While interest in volunteering increases for both men and women on retirement, family transitions, such as children leaving home or bereavement, were seen as more influential for women.
Government campaigns to encourage volunteering also appear to be having little effect, as almost all of those interviewed were not aware of recruitment initiatives, such as the ‘Year of the Volunteer’.
The report found that more than half of the volunteers interviewed said putting their spare time to good use was the main reason for volunteering.
The most typical way older people became volunteers was via word-of-mouth and friendship with people who already volunteer was one of the most important reasons for getting involved.
The study found that most older people can balance volunteering with other activities. For example, having the freedom to choose when and how much of their time to give so family responsibilities fit in around their volunteering activities. More than two out of five volunteers aged 55 and over were also giving time to more than one organisation, at an average of nearly seven hours per week.
Sue Pearson, Chief Executive, AC Newcastle, said: “The research underlines the crucial role older volunteers play in helping communities up and down the country. They bring an incredible wealth of skills and experience and are able to engage with people across generations.”
Approximately five million people over 50 take part in unpaid voluntary work. Older volunteers bring maturity, loyalty and commitment; confidence and authority; patience and tolerance; and an ability to engage with people across the generations. In return, they may overcome loneliness, meet friends, gain skills, get jobs or just feel good about themselves.
Source: Age Concern, http://www.ageconcern.org.uk