Study calls for more old age-friendly volunteering opportunities

A report from the Centre for Ageing Better says the way charities recruit and support volunteers can put barriers in the way of older people

Older people: can feel excluded from volunteering
Older people: can feel excluded from volunteering

Charities and voluntary sector organisations must do more to make their volunteering opportunities older people-friendly, according to a study by the Centre for Ageing Better.

The report, Age-Friendly and Inclusive Volunteering, says that more than 40 per cent of people over the age of 50 contribute in some way at least once a month, according to the Community Life Survey: 2017-18. This can include formal volunteering, such as regular charity work, or contributing in more informal ways, such as holding a cake sale or helping a neighbour with their shopping.

But the study says there are significant inequalities in the types of people most likely to do different kinds of activities. People who are less wealthy, in poorer health or from BAME backgrounds are less likely to formally volunteer.

It says that the ways charities and voluntary organisations recruit and support their volunteers can contribute to these barriers.

The study calls on the charity sector, public sector bodies, business, funders and the Office for Civil Society to adopt a more age-friendly, inclusive approach. The authors argue that by focusing on maintaining a person’s level of activity over time, particularly through major life transitions such as bereavement or diagnosis of a health condition, these organisations can benefit from a larger, more engaged pool of volunteers.

The review calls for:

  • Funders to apply age-friendly principles to their funding decisions and criteria, and cover the costs of accessibility and more inclusive approaches.
  • Voluntary and community sector organisations to work together to tackle key issues such as covering expenses and offering more flexibility in their volunteering arrangements.
  • Local government and public commissioners to recognise the value of helping out and to develop strategies and funding streams that support age-friendly and inclusive contribution.

Dan Jones, director of innovation and change at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: "As we age, changes such as the onset of ill-health or the need to care for a loved one can mean we have to stop contributing to our communities in the way we used to. This can cause us to lose an important source of meaning and wellbeing, and become disconnected from the people around us."

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