Older Volunteers

To Volunteer or Not: The Influence of Individual Characteristics, Resources, and Social Factors on the Likelihood of Volunteering by Older Adults

This study examines the individual characteristics, resources, and social factors for older volunteers living in Belgium. The study investigates whether potential volunteers, actual volunteers, and non-volunteers in later life are different from each other in terms of individual characteristics (e.g., religiosity), resources (e.g., socioeconomic status), and social factors (e.g., social networks and social roles). The findings reveal that altruistic and religious values, physical health, frequent contact with friends, and providing help to others are important predictors for potential volunteers as well as actual volunteers. The results, therefore, provide valuable insights for recruitment and retention of older volunteers.

Involvement in Voluntary Organizations: How Older Adults Access Volunteer Roles?

This article examines how older adults access organizational volunteer roles and what socio-structural factors are associated with the access. Results indicate that education, income, age, and race are associated with the ways that older adults access volunteer roles. In addition, voluntary organizations are encouraged to approach older adults directly, publicize their organizational goals, and disseminate relevant information in order to improve access of older adults to volunteer roles.

Volunteering, Self-Perceptions of Aging, and Mental Health in Later Life

Volunteering enhances social, physical, and cognitive activities that are increasingly valued as people age, which in turn improves older adults’ well-being via a host of psychosocial and neurobiological mechanisms. This study tested older adults’ self-perceptions of aging as a mechanism underlying the mental health benefits of volunteering. Results indicated that volunteering for 100 hours or more per year has a relationship with older adults’ more positive and less negative self-perceptions of aging in the subsequent wave which in turn predicted fewer depressive symptoms.

Does Becoming A Volunteer Attenuate Loneliness Among Recently Widowed Older Adults?

Loneliness is the feeling resulting from a perceived gap between the number and quality of existing social relationships and one’s desired social relationships. Becoming a widow, which is a common and difficult transition in later life, can lead to significant loneliness that is difficult to mitigate. This study examines whether becoming a volunteer at the time of widowhood is associated with reduction of the risks of loneliness. Results indicated that starting to volunteer 2+ hr per week is related to loneliness among the widowed. This study suggests higher intensity volunteering may be a particularly important pathway for alleviating loneliness among older adults who have recently become widowed.

Racial Differences in Volunteer Engagement by Older Adults: An Empowerment Perspective

Tang, Fengyan; Copeland, Valire Carr; Wexler, Sandra. Social Work Research, June 2012.

This research explores the difference in volunteer experience and perceived benefits from volunteering between older black people and white people. Differences are observed between Older black and older white volunteers in terms of the perceived benefits of volunteering. This study contributes to the knowledge base about the racial difference in volunteering. To do so, volunteer engagement is examined as an empowerment process between black and white older adults which provides empirical support for the relevance of the empowerment perspective to volunteering benefits in the older population. The findings of the study also illustrate that older black people are more likely than their white peers to feel empowered through organizational volunteering. Hence, engaging and retaining older volunteers of various ethnic groups can not only help address their communities’ needs but also improve the quality of life and physical and psychological well-being of themselves.

The benefits of volunteering – And how you can get started

National Council for Aging Care (USA), 2017.

According to research presented in this article, people who volunteer live longer. This article promotes volunteering for older citizens, and expands on the following benefits: socially beneficial, giving back to the community, physically engaging, learn something new, helps fill a day. 

Absolutely Positively Ageing: Positive ageing and volunteering in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
Overton, John; Stupples, Polly; Clowes, Alice. Victoria University of Wellington, 2016.

This article illustrates the complexities inherent in the relationship between volunteering and positive ageing and show how volunteering was used by the participants of the study, as a means to resist and challenge negative stereotypes and representations of ageing. There was a fine balance between the promotion of volunteering as one of a multitude of ways in which older people can participate in their communities and overstating the benefits of volunteering to individuals and their communities without revealing the potential challenges.

I volunteer, therefore I am? Factors affecting volunteer role identity
Ingen, Erik van; Wilson, John. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, July 2016.

In this study a strong correlation was found between age and volunteer role identity. For older volunteers, the volunteer role is a more important part of who they are. The results showed that retirement plays an important role. The retirement effect, in turn, is accounted for by the extra time retirees invest in the role, signaling a compensation strategy.

Volunteering as reciprocity: Beneficial and harmful effects of social policies to encourage contribution in older age
Stephens, Christine; Breheny, Mary; Mansvelt, Juliana. Journal of Aging Studies Volume, April 2015.

In this article, the authors posit that volunteering is beneficial for older people, particularly those with few resources but few financial resources and poor health prevent many older people from volunteering. Excerpt: “Social norms of reciprocity mean that volunteering contributes to a positive identity and policies must support the many ways older people can be involved in their communities.”

The conscientious retiree: the relationship between conscientiousness, retirement, and volunteering
Anissa, Mike; Jackson, Joshua; Oltmanns, Thomas. Journal of research in personality, 2014.

This study examines the relationship between conscientiousness, work status and volunteering.Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses revealed that conscientious, retired individuals were more likely to volunteer than conscientious, working individuals. Findings indicate that volunteering during retirement fills an important niche for high-striving, conscientious individuals.

Senior volunteering in the context of active ageing
Pavelek, Lukas. World Applied Sciences Journal, 2013.

This paper deals with active ageing and presents results from a research study on the topic of senior volunteering in across the Slovak republic and from senior volunteers themselves. The main goal of the study was to identify the motives for volunteering of the elderly, to investigate various factors connected with this phenomenon and to improve the ways NGO’s approach this population. The findings support the thesis that volunteering in a higher age can improve the individual life of seniors, although many barriers and obstacles were identified too.

Volunteering predicts happiness among older Māori and non-Māori in the New Zealand health, work, and retirement longitudinal study
Dulin, Patrick; Gavala, Jhanitra; Stephens, Christine; Kostick, Marylynne; McDonald, Jennifer. Aging & Mental Health, July 2012.

This study provides evidence that volunteering is related to increased happiness, irrespective of ethnicity. It also provides further evidence that the relationship between volunteering and happiness is moderated by economic resources. Older individuals at the low end of the economic spectrum are likely to benefit more from volunteering than those at the high end.

University of the Third Age in Australia and New Zealand: Capitalising on the cognitive resources of older volunteers.
Swindell, Rick et al. Australasian Journal on Ageing, December 2011.

Excerpt: “In total, 164 of 265 independent U3As (Universities of the Third Age) in Australasia provided detailed counts of all activities carried out by their volunteers. Conclusion: Expert retirees who are engaged in meaningful voluntary activities in their U3As provide valuable in-kind contributions to the well-being of members and to the national economy.”

Organisational support and volunteering benefits for older adults
Tang, Fengyang; Choi, EunHee; Morrow-Howell, Nancy. The Gerontologist, 2010.

This study tested a theoretical model of volunteering benefits and examined the mechanism through which volunteering benefits older adults. Findings suggest that psychological well-being of older adults can be improved through engagement in meaningful volunteer activities and contribution to others.

Doing good and feeling well: Understanding the relationship between volunteering and mental wellbeing in older adult populations through the application of a social-cognitive theory of depression
Cooper, Louise Elizabeth. Massey University (Albany), 2005.

This article builds on previous research that volunteering can improve positive psychological wellbeing, and protect against the onset of depressive symptoms in older adults. This research suggests that the amount of investment in self-concept facilitated by a volunteering role is related to psychological wellbeing. To a large extent, these findings align with a social-cognitive theory of depression.

Managing an ageing third sector workforce: International and local perspectives
Steinberg, Margaret; Cain, Lara. Third Sector Review, 2004.

This report discusses the fact that Australia – like all developed and most developing countries – is facing major contextual changes, one of which is an ageing population, largely through declining fertility and increasing longevity. Excerpt: “With the population ageing, the non-profit sector will face changes in the availability, work requirements and age management of both paid and voluntary staff. In this article, data and directions for work and workforce planning and related discussions are presented in order to assist the Australasian non-profit sector explore contemporary and future age management.”

Volunteer connections: New strategies for involving older adults
Volunteer Canada, 2001.

This document investigates strategies around older people in volunteering in Canada. Excerpt: “All the ingredients are in place for a renaissance in the world of volunteering and Canada’s aging population will be a vital element of that rebirth. Canadians who volunteer their time tend to be older and as our population matures into a growing force, ripe with potential, a true Canadian natural resource will become available for the voluntary sector.”

Half a million dollars a year: Voluntarism within New Zealand Universities of the Third Age
Swindell, Rick. New Zealand Journal of Adult Learning, May 2000.

This report outlines a study that quantifies the extent of voluntary service within NZ Universities of the Third Age (U3A) and proposes a dollar value for this service. It explains that the study was part of a large survey that examined 3 different aspects of U3A life in Australia and NZ: voluntarism, management and future visions.