The benefits of volunteering in later life

Posted over 3 years ago By Samantha Brown


Many of the messages we typically encounter in the media about older people in society focus on problems like social isolation, the lack of intellectual stimulation and the loss of purpose and identity. These factors all have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of older people. 

The good news is that there is a simple, yet effective way to reverse these trends - volunteering.

In the 'Volunteering in Retirement' report from Volunteering Matters, former Chief Executive Lucy de Groot writes: "There are 14 million people over 60 years of age with a lifetime's worth of knowledge, skills, and experience to share. Retirement is an opportunity for you to use and develop your skills and talents further than you thought possible."

What are the benefits of volunteering in retirement?

#1 Improved wellbeing and good mental health. In a recent study conducted by the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham and published in the BMJ, researchers found that, particularly for older volunteers, there was a significant improvement in wellbeing and mental health as a result of their voluntary work.

#2 Improved physical health. Studies have found that older volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those who do not volunteer. They tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills.

#3 Sense of achievement. Volunteering can have a real and valuable positive affect on people, communities and society in general. It is really satisfying to know that you have helped solve a problem or changed another person’s life.

#4 Social engagement. Volunteering can help you meet different kinds of people and make new friends. It provides an opportunity to practice and develop your social skills in a structured way.

#5 New skills. Volunteering can help you learn new skills and gain experience.