16 Jul 2019
Organisations should take a more inclusive, age-friendly approach to supporting older people to take part and stay involved.
A review of community contributions in later life, ‘Age-friendly and inclusive volunteering’, calls on charities, voluntary organisations and the public sector to do more to support and sustain the good will and effort of older volunteers.
Over 40% of people over the age of 50 contribute in some way at least once a month, according to the 2018 Community Life Survey. This can include ‘formal’ or 'informal' volunteering.
Significantly, there are inequalities in the types of people most likely to do different kinds of activities. People who are less financially secure, in poorer health or from a BAME background can face structural barriers which make them less likely to formally volunteer with a charity. The review found that the ways that charities and voluntary organisations recruit and support their volunteers and the ways in which these bodies are funded and managed, can contribute to these barriers. These barriers can worsen for people in later life as their personal circumstances change – for example developing a health condition or taking on caring responsibilities.
As recently announced in the Government's strategy for tackling loneliness, the Centre for Ageing Better will continue its work with the Office for Civil Society and others to develop new approaches to age-friendly, flexible and inclusive volunteering that support lifelong participation by everyone, including those who currently miss out. Up to five pilot sites will be launched by March 2019 to test and develop these approaches.
Dan Jones, Director of Innovation and Change, 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.
"The challenge we face is to widen access to all forms of participation. We need to make sure that everyone in later life can continue to contribute as much or as little as they want to as their lives change."
Sophy Proctor, Head of Ageing Better at the Big Lottery Fund, said:
"We hear stories on a daily basis about how volunteering has changed people’s lives. This report is a vital contribution to the growing evidence base on how to run projects that support people through volunteering to be active citizens and positive members of their communities.
"Volunteering is at the heart of many of the projects that we support. We will be discussing how to apply this learning to our own work, ensuring National Lottery funding reaches projects across the UK to help volunteers and those supporting them to overcome barriers. Together, we can all play our part."
The review's release coincides with primary research into community contributions in later life, undertaken across five communities.