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Volunteering by Older Adults 65+ is on the Rise

Number of Older Volunteers 65 and OlderVolunteering by older adults 65 plus has been on an upward path in recent years. A report of The Corporation for National and Community Service notes that the number of older adults 65 plus who volunteer has risen from 7.7 million in 2002 to 9.1 million in 2009. Also, the volunteer rate for older adults 65 plus increased by 64 percent between 1974 and 2005 (from 14.3% in 1974 to 23.5% in 2005). The most recent volunteer rate of older adults 65 plus is 23.9 percent for 2009.

Why has the number of older volunteers continued to increase over the past decades? Generational changes, connections between health and volunteering, and improved education and income levels among older adults may be factors that explain the increase of volunteering by older adults. Research indicates that volunteering can improve physical and mental health. Older adults may have experienced a boost in their health through volunteering and this health benefit could have motivated them to continue volunteering.

Also, today’s older adults have more resources than in the past. They are more educated and financially secure than in the past. Research by The Corporation for National and Community Service finds that the proportion of adults age 65 and older without a high school diploma has dropped almost 40 percentage points since 1974. Moreover, older Americans with college degrees are also volunteering at a higher rate than in the past.

Older adults volunteer for many different types of organizations. Religious institutions are the most popular organizations through which they volunteer their time and skills. They also volunteer at social service organizations, hospitals, educational organizations, and civic and arts organizations.

They also engage in a variety of activities as volunteers. These activities include collecting and distributing food, fundraising for organizations, professional/management work and general labor activities.

Since volunteering helps older adults stay active and connected to their communities, it’s a win-win outcome for both older volunteers and the organizations that reap the benefits of their service.

For more information on volunteering by older adults 65 plus, visit these resources:

Profile of Older Adult Volunteers 65+ (The Corporation for National and Community Service)

Volunteer Growth in America: A Review of Trends Since 1974 (The Corporation for National and Community Service) PDF

AoA’s Civic Engagement Initiative