What does a good volunteer experience for the over 50s look like?
Earlier this year the Centre for Ageing Better launched their review into the importance of volunteering and community contributions in later life. They have been partnering with NCVO to embed best practise recommendations for organisations supporting people aged over 50 with volunteering.
Why it matters
Ageism is the most common form of discrimination in this country and as we get older we, or someone we know, are increasingly likely to experience discrimination based on our age. Most of us know that one of the main benefits of volunteering is the increased wellbeing of the individuals involved. Unfortunately, due to barriers associated with poor health or low incomes that, although not limited to, can be exacerbated by age, it is those who would most benefit from volunteering who are least able to participate.
However, ask many people what a traditional volunteer looks like and you will often hear the word – retired. Hopefully anyone who is actually involved in supporting volunteers knows that there is no such thing as a traditional or typical volunteer, but organisations wishing to attract and recruit new volunteers have often targeted those of retirement age. The perception is that they have the skills and time to give back to their communities in a meaningful way and can usually be relied upon to get things done.
With an aging population, increased and competing demands on peoples’ time and for all ages a desire to fill their time with experiences that are meaningful to them, the importance of maintaining focus on what makes a good volunteering experience for older volunteers should not be underestimated.
What are the benefits?
From an organisational perspective, older volunteers have life experience. They will have skills, knowledge and a level understanding of life – a richness – that many younger people will not yet have had time to acquire. If they are retired, they also potentially have more free time – however this does not mean that they will or can fill this time with volunteering. The motivation for volunteering for this age group is often the opportunity to be social, and group or people centred volunteer roles and tasks are often very popular.
For older people volunteering has many benefits. Ageing Better’s research found that volunteering can increase feeling of connectedness, gave people a sense of purpose when many feel a bit lost after a life of work, and increased self-esteem. People who volunteer said they felt happier as a result of volunteering and felt valued; this in turn led to decreased risk of depression.
If you would like to know more about how you can successfully support older people with their volunteering, join us on 15 September as we explore some of the practical considerations of supporting older volunteers. Fiona Andrews from Dementia Forward will also be joining us to share a new resource they have developed for supporting volunteers with dementia.
- Diversifying your volunteer base – Community First Yorkshire information sheet
- Centre for aging better
- NCVO Age Friendly inclusive volunteering
- Age Concern barriers to volunteering later in life
If you would like any further information about volunteering or volunteer support please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01904 704177.