Call to encourage more older people to volunteer

Contact the Elderly organises free tea parties for isolated people over the age of 75.
Contact the Elderly organises free tea parties for isolated people over the age of 75.

New research has revealed that older people gift 145 million hours a year to volunteering in Scotland.

Far from a burden and a drain on society and NHS resources, older people provide invaluable help with new research identifying 612,000 55-74 year olds in Scotland volunteer.

The research by older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service identified half of 55-74 year olds (50 per cent) in Scotland volunteer, 21 per cent formally and 36 per cent informally each year. This equates to 145 million hours per year (101 million informal and 44 million formal).

Royal Voluntary Service is warning that more needs to be done to entice older adults to consider volunteering.

The charity, which has 35,000 volunteers, with half over 65 years old, is calling on Government, businesses and the voluntary sector to do more to promote the benefits of volunteering to older people and to address the barriers.

As so many older people devote time to volunteering, the ageing population – 40 per cent of adults in Scotland will be over 55 years old by 2020 – will provide an opportunity to expand the country’s volunteering workforce. The research identified the potential to enhance the number of 55-74 year olds volunteering in Scotland to 659,000 by 2020.

While population growth alone could achieve this increase, it could be countered by later retirement as many people are anticipating working into later life or are considering gradual or phased retirement. One third of over 55s in employment (33 per cent) said their plan to work part time after retirement would prevent them volunteering as much as they would like.

As well as Royal Voluntary Service, there are other charities which also depend on older people volunteering. These include Contact the Elderly which organises free tea parties for isolated people over the age of 75.

David McCullough, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Older people have so much to offer; their experience, skills and talents would be worth a fortune in the job market.

“We need to do more to motivate older adults to volunteer which will provide the help that is so desperately needed and at the same time, will allow them to remain active and engaged in their local community.”