There is a 'volunteering divide' among the over 50s, says report

A briefing from the Centre for Ageing Better says wealthier and better educated people in this age group are more likely to participate than poorer, more socially isolated people

Older volunteers: divide identified
Older volunteers: divide identified

There is a evidence of a "volunteering divide" among people aged 50 and over, with some regularly contributing to local charities and others completely disengaged from the sector, according to a new report from the Centre for Ageing Better.

The report, an evidence briefing called The Benefits of Making a Contribution to Your Community in Later Life, says people with higher levels of wealth, health, social connections and wellbeing are more likely to contribute to local charities.

Older people who are poorer, more socially isolated and who have less social activity in their lives are less likely to participate, despite the potential benefits of doing so, researchers concluded.

People aged between 65 and 74 are also more likely to volunteer, both formally and informally, take part in civic action and chat to neighbours than any other age group, according to the report.

But the report says that the over 50 age group is also more likely than others to not make any contributions at all and to be completely disengaged, which the Centre for Ageing Better suggests is evidence of a "volunteering divide in later life".

The study, which is a based on a literature review of existing evidence, says older people who get involved in voluntary and community work will generally see improved life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing.

It also says that those who get involved in local charities and community groups experience an enhanced sense of purpose and higher self-esteem, as well as more quality social connections.

The report says that this effect can reduce the likelihood of older people getting depression.

It adds that this means funders and commissioners should encourage activities with and for older people with lower levels of income, education, social engagement and health.

The reports also concludes that funders "should not support activities that rely only on encouraging voluntary activities to address serious issues of physical health, frailty, social isolation or employment in later life".

Dan Jones, director of innovation and change at the Centre for Ageing Better and one of the report’s authors, said: "Organisations that support volunteering should be confident that participation does make a difference in terms of wellbeing and increased social connections in later life, especially for people who are less well connected and active now. Funders should put more resource into volunteering schemes that would benefit those people most and meet the costs of supporting them to participate.

"But while volunteering is great for both individuals and society, it is not a miracle cure and there is no strong evidence that it increases employability, or addresses social isolation or frailty."

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