Researching Older Volunteers - South Australian Experience
23 April 2007 at 12:27 pm
A new report examines volunteering by older people, in particular in the South Australian context, looking at government policy and organisational practice.
South Australia has the oldest population in Australia. According to the researchers this has created some concern for the SA Government that there will be a disproportionate number of older South Australians putting pressure on public resources.
However, the research project emphasises the economic and social contribution older people bring to society including through volunteering. It says this should be encouraged through the concept of ‘healthy ageing’, both for the benefit of society and the individual.
The research project into older volunteering was undertaken at the request of the Office for Volunteers. The research project takes volunteering to mean both formal and informal volunteering, but does not directly address caring performed by older people.
However, it notes that more emphasis tends to be placed on formal volunteering, sometimes excluding types of volunteering typically performed by particular groups of older people.
The term ‘older people’ is recognised as a changing concept depending on the context in which it is used. Understanding the differences amongst ‘older people’ and how this relates to their volunteering behaviour is important.
Throughout the research project practical examples of government and organisational initiatives are identified.
The research concludes that all organisations could benefit from promoting older volunteering.
Volunteer-involving organisations need to:
Ensure their policies and practices are not discriminatory by:
– Assessing policies and practices for deep-seated assumptions about older people and their capabilities and interests
– Abolishing any age limit and deal with individuals according to their unique capabilities
– Encouraging and valuing older volunteers such as through tailoring volunteer activities according to individual capabilities and so that frail people can undertake them
Investing in training older volunteers
– Offering a wide range of activities for older volunteers, in terms of areas of action and activities undertaken
– Specifically recruit older volunteers by:
– Emphasising the benefits of volunteering for the older person in any recruitment material and techniques
– Understanding the motivations and propensities to volunteer of older people
– Emphasising the social contribution the organisation makes and how the volunteer activity contributes to this
– Encouraging confidence in older people
– Challenging stereotypes of who volunteers
– Ensuring potential older volunteers are aware of any reimbursement policies
Direct recruitment campaigns at older volunteers at
– places they are likely to be such as doctors surgeries, day centres, sheltered housing and churches
– People who come into contact with older people such as social workers, aged care workers, health professionals
– ‘Groups in which potential volunteers would be already involved – including
older people’s forums and groups drawn from business and the professions.’
Asking older people to volunteer.
– Personal contact is imperative. People don’t volunteer without being asked
Offer volunteering experiences that:
Meet the needs and capabilities of the individual
– Are flexible in terms of time required, length of activity, and where it can be undertaken
– Use new volunteering trends such as family volunteering, corporate volunteering and e’volunteering.
– Maintain physical and cognitive activity
Provide information about and encouragement of healthy living
– Provide personal support
– Provide strong social links to the community.
Provide reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses
– Address travel difficulties through reimbursement, travel assistance, or offering at home volunteering opportunities
– Provide real responsibility
To view the full PDF report called Older people and volunteering by Zoë Gill from the Office for Volunteers click on the attachment below.