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Contributing to communities

We want more people in later life to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to their communities.

Voluntary activities, formal civic roles and small acts of neighbourliness can all contribute significantly to personal wellbeing and create stronger social connections.

We know that many people want to contribute but don’t know the best way to do it, or have the right opportunities to do so. We are working to make it easier to contribute to communities.

We are drawing together the evidence on what motivates and supports people aged 50 and over to get involved in community activity in ways that enhance their wellbeing and make best use of their skills, knowledge and experience.

Why work on it?

Our own review of the evidence shows that the main benefits of making a contribution to your community are improved social connections and an enhanced sense of meaning and purpose.

We know there are many people who don’t participate, with some evidence that levels of volunteering in later life are declining, and that more affluent people are more likely to volunteer.

People who are less well off, have fewer social connections, and less activity in their lives at the moment would benefit most from contributing to their community, but they are the group that volunteers the least.

The contribution of older people in formal volunteering roles in the UK is estimated at over £10 billion per year (Corry and Sabri, 2015). However, the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing expressed a widely held view that “the voluntary sector has a collective lack of imagination in this area”. While there has been significant government and voluntary sector attention on encouraging young people to volunteer, the time is right for a greater focus on people in later life.

We want to find ways to help more people in later life who want to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to find the opportunities that are right for them. We also want to help people to keep contributing as they grow older.

Latest activity

Government and voluntary sector

We are working with government and the voluntary sector, gathering the evidence on individual motivation and the barriers people face when they want to contribute. We are also exploring which ways of engaging and supporting people are most effective, as well as testing new ideas and approaches to help people find meaningful ways to get involved.

  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS) – We are leading a review in partnership with the Office for Civil Society into how to enable more people aged 50 and over to contribute their time, skills and experience to their communities.

Research underway

We have commissioned Office for Public Management (OPM) to help us understand more about the barriers, enablers and opportunities for volunteering, with a focus on disadvantaged people in later life.

Working with communities across four urban and rural locations in Bristol, Leeds and North Yorkshire, this research will explore how poverty, place, ethnicity and health impact on voluntary activity in later life.

This community-led research will focus on practical steps for local public and voluntary sector organisations to better support and sustain what people are already doing, as well as lessons and solutions that can be applied more widely.

The research will explore a range of barriers that were identified in our review of published evidence – including but not restricted to:

  • Local infrastructure and social and community norms and expectations about people in later life
  • Ageism – both on the part of organisations, and assumptions that people in later life may have about appropriate roles
  • The ability of volunteering schemes to welcome and support people in later life, especially those from disadvantaged groups.

Have a look at our ‘Community Contributions’ infographics.

Support us

Please get in contact if you are able to contribute information or ideas because:

  • you are doing relevant research
  • you have personal experience that could help inform the design of interventions and solutions
  • you are delivering a service or intervention designed to support people to make a contribution to their communities
  • you have ideas about how the Centre for Ageing Better can make most difference
  • you share our ambitions and would like to explore how you could contribute or work with us.