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Volunteering in later life

18 Apr 2019 - 13:48 by aleena.khan

Victoria and I attended an Ambition for Ageing seminar yesterday by Kate Jopling where she presented the findings from a recent publication ‘Age-friendly and inclusive volunteering: Review of community contributions in later life' by the Centre for Aging Better in partnership with the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS). The report can be found here: https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-11/Age-friendl...

The publication found that very few people in later life make no contribution of any kind. Older people tend to make more informal contributions, whether this be taking in their neighbour’s bins to doing their shopping. This level of contribution is more prevalent in more disadvantaged communities and is seen an important source of help and support. In terms of formal volunteering, it was found that people of poor health and from low socioeconomic backgrounds are underrepresented. One reason for this can include the barriers – both structural and emotional - that people in later life particularly face when wanting to volunteer.

Some of these barriers include –
• Inflexible offers
• Lack of resources
• Digital divide
• Lack of confidence
• Fear of over commitment
• Stigma/stereotype
• Not feeling valued

In order to overcome these barriers, the report suggested that organisations adopt a new framework that encompasses the following themes to ensure that we are enabling people to contribute in ways that work for them and open up opportunities to everyone;

  • Enabled and supported
    Organisations must ensure that they offer practical help and support to volunteers, whether this be through a clear expenses policy, buddying or mentoring system or making adjustments for those who have mobility or sensory needs.
  • Flexible and responsive
    People’s circumstances change all the time; this is normal! It’s important to recognise this and make it easier for volunteers to start, stop and change their contributions, especially as the report found that older people in particular express fear over commitment
  • Valued and appreciated
    From a simple ‘thank you’ to more formal recognition, it’s important that we always recognise volunteer’s efforts and appreciate what they do.
  • Sociable and connected
    It’s important that volunteers are given regular opportunities to get together, have events and receive newsletters. A huge motivator for volunteering for older people is to meet and socialise with a wide range of people of different ages and from different backgrounds. It’s important that they feel part of something.
  • Meaningful and purposeful
    Give volunteers the opportunity to shape the work that is being done and regular opportunities to feedback.
  • Make good use of my strengths
    Volunteers should be asked about their skills and experiences and how they want to use them. Organisations should also ensure people are allowed to take on new things as they build their confidence.

It’s important that organisations offer more people in later life the opportunity to benefit from making a contribution to their communities. However, a discussion to be had is how can large organisations reach out to these communities where people volunteering informally, whether this be at the local church or mosque to looking after their neighbours, and build positive links for more diverse representation and supporting a smoother transition between organisations as peoples’ lives change.

Following on from this, the Greater Manchester Older People’s Network’s next event, championing older people’s voices in Greater Manchester, will be focusing on older people’s participation and how to support older people to feel like valued members of their communities. The GMOPN is all about getting older people’s voices heard and making sure that they have opportunities to participate. Through a variety of workshops and discussions, the GMOPN will develop a guide for participation and co-production with older people. For more information about the event or to book a place please click here -http://www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/civicrm/event/info?id=6137&res....

Remember – we should focus on making volunteering age-friendly not age-specific!

Have a lovely bank holiday weekend ☆

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Submitted by shanna.lennon on

Thanks for this Aleena! I couldn't make this seminar so it's really good to have a summary.

It seems that what is good for volunteers in later life is good for everyone as I'd say those reccomendations are the foundations of a good volunteer programme! If they are in place everyone can flourish. If these reccomendations are in place it makes volunteering better for everyone.

Thanks again and I'll look forward to hearing your insights from this when planning the future of the Volunteer Centre!

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