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Volunteering makes the old feel young
10 July 2006

Newcastle, UK: A new report into volunteering in later life was launched today at the House of Commons by Age Concern Newcastle and Newcastle University, UK.

Until now, very little has been known about volunteering in later life, yet voluntary bodies, such as Age Concern, often rely on older volunteers. The study offers important new insights into how and why older people choose to volunteer.

More than half of the organization’s active volunteers surveyed were over 65. Almost half of the volunteers who were aged 55 plus had annual incomes of less than £10,000.

Professor Jane Wheelock of the University's School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, said: “This research fills the gaps in our understanding of the huge contribution that older people make to voluntary organizations. Volunteering is a great way for older people to stay active after they retire, make new friends and learn new skills.”

While interest in volunteering increases for both men and women on retirement, family transitions, such as children leaving home or bereavement, were seen as more influential for women.

Government campaigns to encourage volunteering also appear to be having little effect, as almost all of those interviewed were not aware of recruitment initiatives, such as the ‘Year of the Volunteer’.

The report found that more than half of the volunteers interviewed said putting their spare time to good use was the main reason for volunteering.

The most typical way older people became volunteers was via word-of-mouth, and friendship with people who already volunteer was one of the most important reasons for getting involved.