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Community allotment, Gorsehill, Greater Manchester

Contributing to communities

We want more people in later life to take up opportunities 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 wellbeing and social connections in later life.

Contributing to communities introduction video
It makes you feel worthwhile. If you work in a job for a long time and then retire, then you need to get that self-worth from somewhere else.

We want to support more people in later life to take up opportunities to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to their communities – especially people who are less well-off or in worse health. 

Most people of all ages already make a contribution to their community. However, people in later life who are less well-off, or in worse health, are much less likely to contribute their time and talents, even though they are more likely to benefit as a result. We also know that these people are most likely to benefit from improving their social connections and wellbeing through making a contribution. 

We want to help people in later life who want to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to help others, but who face particular challenges and barriers.

Why work on it?

Our 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. People aged 50 and over who make an active contribution to their community are happier as a result, and have stronger social connections.

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. 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 are working to tackle the barriers that make it harder for people aged 50 and over who are in poor health, or from disadvantaged communities, to make a contribution. We also want to help people to keep contributing as they grow older.

Older man in workshop part of Men's Sheds

We are seeking examples of inspiring practice that supports more people in later life make a contribution to their community.

What we’re working on

We have commissioned Office for Public Management (OPM) to investigate the barriers, enablers and opportunities for volunteering by 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. The community-led research will focus on practical steps for local public and voluntary sector organisations to better support what people are already doing, as well as lessons that can be applied more widely.

We are leading a review in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport into how to enable more people aged 50 and over to contribute their time, skills and experience to their communities, especially those who face particular barriers in taking part. We will gather evidence and explore possible ways of engaging and supporting people, both tried and tested approaches and promising new ideas. The review will generate recommendations for national and local government, the voluntary sector and businesses to help people in later life find meaningful ways to contribute to their communities.

Get involved
  • Are you are doing relevant research? 
  • Do you have ideas about how the Centre for Ageing Better can make the most difference? 
  • Do you share our ambitions and would like to explore how you could contribute or work with us? 
  • Please get in touch if you have information to contribute or ideas you'd like to share. 
man in allotment

Helping people around us, whether through formal volunteering or simple acts of neighbourliness, is good for our communities and for our own individual wellbeing, whatever our age.