Later life is a time when many people wish to volunteer and make an active contribution to civic and community life. If you tuned into ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show today you would have seen Adrian Chiles promoting the wide range of volunteering opportunities that Age UK offers.
Indeed, Age UK and our partners already work with more than 10,000 older volunteers. But there’s plenty more we can all be doing, which is why we need the government to step in with their Giving White Paper.
Across the UK only a minority of people participate and only 20% of people aged over 75 participate in formal volunteering at least once a month. Many more older people have something to offer, and something to gain from being more active in the community. There needs to be more support for older people to get involved, as well as support for those who currently volunteer.
The older population is also more diverse than ever before and will become more so. With this in mind, approaches to increasing giving need to be developed with older people themselves, to design new ideas that fit with their expectations and lifestyles.
Here are some of the challenges we made to the government to support more people giving:
- Removing myths and burdens: There are myths and burdens to volunteering that need to be removed. For instance, some voluntary organisations believe people over 75 cannot participate because they would not be adequately insured, when in fact more flexible insurance is available.
- Volunteer management is not cost free: Public bodies must ensure volunteer management costs within funded programmes are properly costed for the level of volunteering being delivered. While volunteering is freely given, it is not cost free.
- Training and community development: There needs to be ongoing investment in the voluntary and community sector to give them the ability to involve volunteers effectively and in greater numbers. Effective volunteering requires well-managed volunteering. This is particularly important for more complex roles, such as in health and social care.
- Digital inclusion: Social media offers exciting new ways for people to give time and money. However, in the UK 60% of people over the age of 65 have never used the internet. While progress needs to continue on digital inclusion, in the meantime alternative communication methods should always be provided and information must be accessible to all.
The government has recognised the potential to boost volunteering and philanthropy by connecting with and empowering older people. We need to make sure that there is a plan in place to make it happen.
We would like to hear your giving stories. If you volunteer already, what motivates you? Would you like to do more or are you struggling to see how you can get involved? Let us know.