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The benefits of volunteering in later life

Posted on 13/10/2016

Volunteers play an important role in many areas of society, and they are essential to keeping certain services running in local communities. Older people often benefit from a lot of these volunteer-run services, but they are also make up a large proportion of the volunteer workforce.

New research by the Royal Voluntary Service has found that nearly half (46% or around 6.2 million people) of all 55-74 year olds volunteer every year, which equates to 1.4 billion hours. As the ageing population continues to increase, it’s hoped that this will continue to grow the volunteer workforce, which will help to meet the necessary demand for volunteers. There are some hurdles to this growth, particularly the need to work to an older age before retiring or needing to retire in phases, leaving little time for volunteering activities. 38% of over-55s in the research study said that their plans to work part-time after retirement would prevent them from volunteering as much as they would like.

However, encouraging older people to take on volunteer roles after retiring has a lot of benefits both for themselves and greater society. Staying active in later life, both physically and mentally, helps to prevent the onset of certain age-related conditions and therefore delays the need to use care and support services. It helps to increase happiness, reduce loneliness, and promote a sense of well-being and usefulness. It’s a good way to meet new people and build friendships, as well as give something back to the community.

David McCullough, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, says: "Older people have so much to offer; their experience, skills and talents would be worth a fortune in the job market, yet many choose to be generous with their time and volunteer. Sadly, we are failing to realise and harness this talent as much as we could. We need to do more to motivate older adults to volunteer which will provide the help that is so desperately needed and at the same time, will give them an opportunity to meet new people and to remain active and engaged in their local community.”

The Royal Voluntary Service itself is run by 35,000 volunteers to provide practical help to older people in their homes, communities and hospitals. Its current volunteer opportunities can be found on their website.

Do-it is the UK’s national volunteering database and has a variety of volunteer roles in your local area to browse.

You can find out more about ways to stay independent in later life, in our Service Users section on this website. 

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