Every year, older Australians contribute around 46.5 billion dollars to our national economy through unpaid caring and voluntary roles. This is because a whopping 53 per cent of Australians over 50 are involved in volunteer work in their communities.
Older people who volunteer also report a range of personal benefits, including:
- mental stimulation and improved mental health
- improved self-esteem and a sense of purpose
- increased community connection, which helps combat social isolation and loneliness.
For some though, volunteering may actually be more of a necessity than a choice. The number of people aged 55-64 on the Newstart Allowance has increased by more than 55,000 people in under five years. People of working age who receive this allowance are required to undertake a certain number of hours of approved activities – such as volunteering – each week to continue receiving payments.
Despite the fact that a large number of older people are already involved in volunteer work, older people still report a range of barriers to volunteering in the community, such as:
- lack of flexibility in accommodating changes in mobility, vision or hearing
- information only being available online, which can make access difficult for older people who are less digitally literate.
In a 2018 study, around half of older volunteers surveyed felt that there was further work governments could do to facilitate meaningful volunteer opportunities for older people.
What do you think?
- Would you like to get involved in volunteer work but aren’t quite sure where to start?
- Are there barriers preventing you or other older people you know from engaging in volunteer work?
- If you are volunteering now, are there aspects of this experience that do not meet your needs as an older person?
- Are there steps the Victorian Government could take to better support older people working in voluntary roles?
The Victorian Government recognises that volunteers and volunteering are changing, and that our ageing population is a major contributor to this change. To this end, it is developing and implementing a Volunteer Strategy to support and enhance volunteerism in Victoria.
To inform this strategy, the government has developed two surveys to capture the insights of different groups with an interest in volunteering. The first survey applies to community members and volunteers, and the second applies to people or organisations involved in managing volunteers. Please consider sharing your thoughts via one or, if relevant, both surveys by 31 May.