THE Centre for Ageing Better has launched a new guide to help voluntary organisations support and engage over-50s volunteers, including those who typically face barriers to getting involved in their communities.
Ageing Better says an age-friendly and inclusive approach to volunteering and supporting contributions from a more diverse range of people will be vital for community organisations to sustain their activities in the future.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the important role of the VCS and volunteers in supporting communities, particularly those who’ve needed extra help during this time or who have had to remain at home. But many people who regularly engage in volunteering were prevented from helping out in the usual ways by lockdown restrictions or shielding guidance. Many organisations have responded by finding new and different ways for people to volunteer including on the phone or via digital channels from home.
The new guide is based on insights from five grant-funded projects which have tested and developed new approaches to supporting older volunteers. Evidence and insights gathered from the projects and by the Centre for Ageing Better suggest that an age-friendly and inclusive approach could help voluntary organisations sustain and widen their supporter base in the future and as they look to rebuild their capacity in the wake of the pandemic.
The approach will also mean that people of all ages and circumstances are able to enjoy the social and wellbeing benefits of volunteering as soon as it’s safe for them to do so.
The guide recommends five key actions:
- Connect and listen – take time to understand people’s individual circumstances
- Focus on what matters to people – explore the different ways they want and are able to contribute
- Play to people’s strengths – make the most of people’s diverse abilities and skills
- Remove barriers – take steps to provide the support individuals need, including for things like lack of confidence or self-esteem
- Be flexible – create a range of opportunities to suit different people and changing circumstances.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the amazing way that communities have come together to help one another. People have taken up volunteering and reached out to help neighbours for the first time during the crisis. Helping out not only makes us feel good but it also helps us build stronger connections to the people around us.
“But the pandemic has also restricted opportunities for some people to volunteer and fully participate in their communities. It’s vital that voluntary and community organisations support people of all ages and circumstances to volunteer and remove barriers to participation. We want to ensure ‘mutual’ aid continues and everyone can give and receive help in their communities.”