Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Indianapolis

Senior Volunteers in America

Senior citizens make up an increasing proportion of the population of this country. Currently, seniors comprise approximately 21 percent of the residents of the United States. This number is only going to increase over the next twenty to thirty years as the almost 79 million members of the "Baby-Boomer" generation mature. With retirement coming earlier to many in this group, senior citizens today are active, involved, and interested in helping whether it be through charitable contributions or volunteer time.

According to a recent survey, almost 44 percent of all people 55 and over volunteer at least once a year; over 36 percent reported that they had volunteered within the past month. These older volunteers give on average 4.4 hours per week to the causes they support. The 26.4 million senior volunteers gave approximately 5.6 billion hours of their time—a value of $77.2 billion to nonprofit organizations and other causes in this country.

Reaching Out to Various Causes

Volunteering can take many forms. One can volunteer formally through a service club, at a homeless shelter, or at a church or synagogue, to name but a few. However, much volunteerism happens informally—helping a neighbor with chores or babysitting for no pay.

Seniors actively pursue a wide range of volunteer activities, often volunteering for many types of causes during a particular year. For example, 64.6 percent of volunteers reported serving with their church or synagogue, 22.3 percent report working with an educational institution, like a school, and 37.3 percent volunteer informally in their neighborhoods or towns.

Seniors who volunteer are some of the most active volunteers within the community. Thirty-four percent of adult volunteers volunteer more than four hours per week; however, over 40 percent of seniors who volunteer give, on average, more than four hours of their time per week to various causes.

Staying Involved and Active

The more active and involved they are, the more seniors seem to volunteer. Over 47 percent of senior volunteers who are still working on a part or full-time basis, volunteer over four hours a week of their time; 42 percent give over five hours per week!

Helping Others, Helping Society

The desire to help others less fortunate is a major motivation for seniors to volunteer. Senior volunteers stated most often that the ability to help individuals meet their needs and the feeling that those that have more should help those with less were major motivations that drive them to be volunteers in their community.

Giving back to society, either financially or socially, are also major motivations for volunteerism among seniors. Over one-third of senior volunteers reported that they volunteered because they wanted to give back to society some of the benefits they received individually; they wanted to enhance the moral basis of society; or they felt that it was important to keep taxes and other costs down.

Creating Links and Encouraging Volunteerism

How do seniors find out about volunteer opportunities? Various institutions are very important to encouraging volunteerism. Most frequently, senior volunteers found out about their volunteering options through their religious institution. In fact, senior volunteers find out about their volunteer opportunities through their church more often than any other institution; almost three quarters of volunteers age 55 and over discovered volunteer possibilities through their church or synagogue. Membership organizations, places of employment, and other voluntary organizations are also places where seniors found out about volunteering.

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