More support needed for older volunteers

Older volunteer

The Centre for Ageing Better is calling for charities to do more to make volunteering more age friendly and inclusive

18th October 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Charitable, voluntary and public-sector organisations can do more to support and sustain the vital efforts of older volunteers, according to a new review.

The Centre for Ageing Better, which has led a review in partnership with the Office for Civil Society, is calling for charities, voluntary organisations and the public sector to adopt six principles of age-friendly, inclusive contribution in the wake of the government’s new strategy for tackling loneliness.

The study has said a more inclusive, age-friendly approach would enable people to continue giving back to their communities, particularly as they go through major life transitions like illness or bereavement.

It found nearly half of over 50s volunteer at least once a month, through formal volunteering with a charity or informal actions like running a cake sale. However, many face barriers to getting involved, especially as their personal circumstances change over time.

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.

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.”

The review calls for funders to consider inclusivity when making decisions, for voluntary and community sector organisations to work together to tackle key issues such as expenses, flexibility and access, and local government and public commissioners to recognise the value of helping out.

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.”