With increased pressure on health and social care services expected throughout 2017, millions of older people plan to step in and help ease the burden by gifting their time.
New research from older people’s charity, Royal Voluntary Service, reveals 4.7 million people aged 55 and over plan to volunteer in 2017.
And the study shows they want more people to follow suit – nearly two fifths (37%) of 55s and over surveyed say the country needs more volunteers in the wake of health and social care service cutbacks.
Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteer organisations in the country. It has 35,000 volunteers, a large number of which support older people in hospital – from providing practical help and companionship on wards and making a patients’ stay in hospital more comfortable to assisting older people return home. Given demand on services is set to grow, Royal Voluntary Service says more needs to be done to promote the benefits of volunteering, particular to older people.
Indeed, whilst the research shows nearly one in four (23%) over 55s who currently, or plan to volunteer said retirement was the catalyst for this, Royal Voluntary Service wants it to become an integral part of many more retirees’ plans when they hang up their boots. This is echoed by one in 10 (11%) of the over 55s polled, who say all retirees should volunteer.
David McCullough, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service said:
“Volunteers are playing an increasingly essential role in this country, bringing help, smiles and conversation into the lives of a growing number of older people. The contribution they make in keeping our public services, particularly in the health and social care arenas, functioning cannot be underestimated. It is inspiring to see so many older adults plan to share their time in 2017 and provide a much needed boost to the country’s volunteer workforce.”
The study goes on to reveal the top three reasons older people want to volunteer: to give something back to the community (56%), to stay mentally and physically active (38%) and to meet more people (31%).
Previous research conducted for Royal Voluntary Service by Professor James Nazroo also found that volunteering is not just a one-way street and by gifting their time, older people can also enjoy getting something back. It identified that older people who volunteer are happier and healthier than their counterparts who don’t. Furthermore, a report by chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies cited that staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can ensure people stay physically and mentally active for longer – saying the health benefits of this cannot be overestimated.
David McCullough continues:
“Volunteering should not be seen purely as a way to contribute to society, but also a chance to improve our health and well-being. These health benefits must be better promoted through GPs and other NHS outlets and we hope one day, we might see more GPs ‘prescribing’ volunteering. The new year is the perfect time to reflect on our lifestyle choices – from exercising more to quitting bad habits – and we’d encourage more older people to consider volunteering as a route to a healthy and happy 2017.”
Royal Voluntary Service’s volunteers help older people stay active, independent and able to continue to contribute to society. They do this by providing practical and emotional help where and when it’s needed. To find out more about volunteering opportunities available in your area please visit: visit: www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk, tweet us at @RoyalVolService or call 0845 608 0122.