Volunteering.  Older people give more time to society.

Older volunteers have a great deal to offer society in terms of work skills, lifetime experience, cultural knowledge and intergenerational links to the community. Volunteering is also good for older people.  A great deal of research has shown that volunteers are likely to have better physical and mental health, longer lives, and to be generally happier.

Volunteers fixing a fence for Department of Conservation in Boundary Fence Mainland Island, Hawkes BayThe ICC results showed that volunteering rates are high in the New Zealand population of older people.  Overall, the proportion of people who volunteered at least once a year was very high (85%), with over half (52%) volunteering weekly or more.

The two most common volunteering activities undertaken monthly or more were for leisure groups (36% ), community or service organisations (34% ), and religious, church, or other spiritual organisations (24% monthly or more).  Sports clubs (20% monthly or more) and “providing a community service” were also relatively common (14% monthly or more).

Older people were more likely to be volunteering.  Forty percent of those between 60 and 64 years of age were giving time to a group or organisation at least once a week.  After retirement age (i.e. between the ages of 65 to 74) this proportion was higher at around 54%. For those between 75 and 79 years old it was even higher, with 65% of this age group volunteering their time once a week or more.

These results indicate that most of this increased volunteer activity involves more time given to hobby and leisure groups, religious groups, and organisations that help people.  People did not increase the time given to activism, environmental stewardship, or in cultural knowledge and traditions or arts areas.

Marae live by the time and effort given freely by its people, our findings showed that nearly half (46%) of those identifying as Maori had performed at least one role on their marae (e.g. ringa wera, kai karanga, or pou korero).  However it should also be acknowledged that there are many who live too far from their marae to help, are too ill to help, or are helping their local Māori community in other ways.

Interviews with individuals have also shown that although people are keen to volunteer as shown in the ICC survey results, there are also barriers to continuing participation including costs, transport and ageism.  Given that there is much enthusiasm for ongoing and developing contribution through volunteering, and that volunteering is beneficial for society and individuals, what are the needs for support and encouragement to include as many people as possible in these activities.