According to statistics, the number of seniors volunteering is very low (2%) as compared to the overall population (35%). In terms of the volunteerism rate, seniors are under utilised as they can be assets too and contribute to the society just like the rest of the community. Even though the years after retirement is seen as a period of rest for the elderly, that does not mean they should not engage in activities like volunteering. If we want to encourage elderly to volunteer, we cannot frame the concept of volunteering as “work”. Although it might be more difficult to convince and persuade seniors to participate in volunteer activities, one way to start is to create more volunteering opportunities and highlight the benefits that they will gain from volunteering. If a healthy mindset and culture surrounding volunteering is created, it can redefine ageing with positivity and productivity.
Benefits of senior volunteerism for the elderly
Loyalty & Commitment
Although the rate of seniors volunteering is low, they have a much better commitment. When they do volunteer, they do so because they are sincere and will do it at a regularly. For instance, there are more elderly volunteering weekly or monthly as compared to the overall population. This sense of commitment means that they have an activity they are occupied with and can focus on during their senior years. It also provides a source of motivation for them to continue staying active!
Healthy & Active
In terms of fitness, regular volunteering can act as a work-out routine for them. This is because they still do have to go out and perform physical activities to an extent. Volunteering gets them to move around and be more productive.
In terms of mental well-being, volunteering involves social interactions and helping others in need. When they see how this has meaningful values to them, they will feel enlightened and also satisfied psychologically.
Volunteering opens up opportunities for them to meet new people in their life. As they participate in different volunteering programs, they will get to know people from different walks of life. As their social circle expands, their interactions with people will also increase. This helps in preventing social isolation and depression as seniors remain connected with the community.
Improve intergenerational bond: Volunteering has no boundaries when it comes to different age groups. It connects both the young and the elderly as they share the same interest and activities. Volunteering helps to tighten the bond between the elderly and the young.
They can learn new things even in their senior years. When they volunteer in new areas that they have never experienced before, they can learn new knowledge, skills and tips that will be useful in life. It is never too late to learn and this can serve as a source of motivation for them to continue pursuing new activities - not only volunteering but also education, new hobbies and more.
Seniors who are interested in joining volunteer programs, below are some organisations in Singapore and resources, dedicated to senior volunteers:
RSVP Singapore The Organisation of Senior Volunteers: https://rsvp.org.sg/
NTUC Health Active Ageing Hub: https://ntuchealth.sg/active-ageing-hub/
MOH I Feel Young SG: https://www.moh.gov.sg/ifeelyoungsg/how-can-i-age-actively/volunteer
- Read their action plan: https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider3/action-plan/action-plan.pdf
- Community Befriending Programme: https://www.moh.gov.sg/ifeelyoungsg/our-stories/how-can-i-age-actively/volunteer/community-befriending-programme
- National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)