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The benefits of making a contribution to your community in later life

Author(s)

JONES Dan, YOUNG Aideen, REEDER Neil

Publisher(s):

Centre for Ageing Better

Publication year:

2016

Reviews existing evidence on the benefits for older people of volunteering and making unpaid contributions to their communities in later life. The report covers ‘community contributions’ to refer to this whole spectrum of unpaid activity, including individual acts of neighbourliness, peer support, formal volunteering and involvement in civic participation. The report looks the state of the current evidence base; the main areas of benefit for volunteering in later life, who currently benefits from volunteering and in what circumstances. The review identifies good evidence that older people making community contributions can lead to benefits in: the quantity and quality of their social connections; an enhanced sense of purpose and self-esteem; and improved life satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing. The evidence was less clear on the impact on health, employment and social isolation. The review also found that people aged 50 with fewer social connections, lower levels of income and education, and poorer health may have the most to gain from helping others. However, the people most likely to volunteer are those who are already relatively wealthy, in good physical and mental health, and with high levels of wellbeing and social connections. The report makes recommendations for organisations, funders and commissioners working with older volunteers. These included: maximise the benefits of volunteering by focusing on engaging older people who are relatively less well connected, less wealthy and less healthy; avoid an over reliance on volunteering alone to tackle serious issues related to physical health, frailty, social isolation or employability; and ensure that older people engaged in volunteering have meaningful roles, with opportunities for social interaction. (Edited publisher abstract)


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