A growing asset

Too often the debate about ageing focuses on costs and burdens. So it was refreshing to see WRVS research showing that in 2010 over 65s made a net contribution of £40 billion to the UK economy. Through taxes, spending power, provision of social care and the value of their volunteering, older people are an asset, and one that is set to grow.

The findings suggest that as the ageing population grows so does their annual contribution to public life and therefore the UK economy:

  • Taxes paid by older people amount to around £45 billion, to grow to around £82 billion by 2030, growth of 82%
  • Spending power of over 65s is currently £76 billion, to grow to £127 billion by 2030, growth of 68% (nb: see p17 for clarification of figures)
  • Provision of social care by older people is £34 billion, growing to £52 billion by 2030
  • Hidden value of older people’s volunteering reaches £10 billion per annum
  • Annual contribution of £10 billion through charity and family donations

You might not like the idea of being seen as an asset, but money gets people’s attention. Acknowledging the ‘hidden value’ of the role older people play in their homes and neighbourhoods is often missed. Later life is a time when many people wish to volunteer and make an active contribution to civic and community life. And it’s not just about delivering services, it also improves the lives of the volunteers themselves by combating loneliness and personal isolation; bringing communities together; or boosting independence.But many more people could be getting involved and for longer. If we’re going to see growth in this hidden value, then we need to give people the encouragement and support to take on these different roles. Only 20% of people aged over 75 participate in formal volunteering at least once a month. Many more older people having something to offer, and something to gain from being more active in the community.

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