When you think of volunteers and volunteering, what’s the first thing that springs to your mind? Do you immediately think of young people – i.e. under the age of 35?
Would it surprise you to know that people between the ages of 25 and 34 are actually the LEAST likely to have offered their services as a volunteer? >.
Here’s some interesting statistics from 2018-19 Community Life Survey on formal volunteering (formal volunteering means helping clubs/societies/charities etc on an unpaid basis).
Of those aged 25 -34: 15% said they had volunteered at least once per month and 29% that they had done so at least once in the past year.
Those aged 16 – 24 do a little better with 21% saying they had volunteered at least once per month and 35% that they had done so at least once in the past year.
Compare this with the 65 – 74 age group where levels rise to 28% and 39% respectively.
Interestingly the same study showed that people living in rural areas are more likely to have volunteered than those in urban ones. Which may say something about the perceived lack of community in our towns and cities!
If we look more closely at ‘formal’ volunteering it would seem that older adults from higher socio- economic groups are the most likely to offer up their services. Rates of volunteering from the most disadvantaged communities in England are HALF that of the wealthiest and yet it is often their communities who would benefit the most.
For whatever reason, it would seem that those with the most to gain in terms of improving not only their own lives and wellbeing but also those of their community, are the least likely to become a volunteer.
What are the benefits from volunteering in later life?
Hopefully you’ll have read some of our other blogs which highlight the positive effects of staying busy, continuing to learn and staving off isolation; well volunteering ticks all of those boxes – with the added bonus that you are also visibly helping someone else!
If you have been put off from volunteering because you think it’s only for young people? Well think again! One of SCCCC’s volunteers is 87 years young and has been volunteering with us for 27 years, visiting lonely older adults who are often younger than him.
1. Feeling useful – Having a purpose
As we get older, particularly after retirement, it can feel as if we’ve become ‘a bit of a spare part’ – of use to no one. It’s human nature to want to feel as if we are here for a reason, but if one of our primary reasons is taken away: e.g. loss of a job, or even worse the loss of a much loved spouse or partner; then all of a sudden we can be left feeling there is nothing to get up for in the morning.
Volunteering can help return a sense of purpose, re-establish a daily routine and allow you to feel a useful member of your community.
2. Mental health benefits
There are studies which show that the rate of depression in older adults is reduced by regular volunteering in an organised capacity.
The enhanced sense of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction gained by altruistically helping others (i.e. doing something to help without looking for any direct gain) has an impact on every area of one’s life.
3. Physical health benefits
There may be less tangible evidence for an improvement in physical health but there are indications – for example walking more and reductions in the lessening of walking speed are reported amongst older ladies who volunteer.
Certainly, remaining physically active and mobile for as long as possible in later life are to be encouraged.
4. Reduces social isolation
Loneliness is a massive problem amongst older adults with Age UK reporting that 1.4m older adults in the UK are ‘chronically lonely’ with some people not seeing anyone from one week to the next.
Here at SCCCC our Good Neighbours scheme has been running for 54 years; pre the lockdown caused by Covid 19, our volunteers would visit lonely older adults in their own homes once a week for a cuppa and a chat to help alleviate loneliness.
At the moment our visits are restricted to regular phone calls and ‘socially distanced’ chats but even this can be a lifeline for someone who is on their own.
From a volunteer’s perspective, being a part of something like the Good Neighbour scheme can offer many rewards; new friends; the feeling of helping someone else; being part of a team again…All of which can help their own feelings of loneliness.
5. Restores a sense of self-esteem
If you’ve been a ‘doer’ all your life it can come as a bit of shock to find you have masses of time on your hand and nothing to fill the hours with. As we said earlier,’ feeling useful’ is something most of us thrive on – take that away and we can wind up feeling lost and lonely.
Volunteering, helping other people and getting out and about (when we are able to!) can be a huge boost to self-esteem and having high self-esteem helps you feel good about yourself and your ongoing value to the world.
How can you become a volunteer?
First and foremost, why not contact SCCCC? We are always looking for new volunteers and even in this current situation we can help lonely older adults via regular phone calls! Email Volunteers@scccc.co.uk or telephone 0114 2505293 for details.
Also, check out these websites for listings of volunteer opportunities: