Tuesday, April 23, 2024

National Seniors survey reveals volunteer snapshot

A new report from National Seniors Australia has revealed a snapshot of the number of older Australians who volunteer, why they volunteer and the types of voluntary work they perform.

The report, titled ‘I make a difference in this world with what I do’: Older Australians and Volunteering, is the result of a survey which received more than 3,600 responses.

Of those respondents, 50% said they volunteered some of their time. Of that 50%, the respondents further revealed that:
• 27% said they spend 5 hours or less per week doing voluntary work;
• 12% said they performed 5-10 hours;
• 9% said they did 10-20 hours;
• And 2% said they did 20 or more hours per week.

The survey also revealed that there was no great distinction between the amount of volunteer work done by those who had permanently retired from paid work to those who hadn’t.

However, it did reveal that those who engaged in volunteering were more likely to be positive and satisfied with how they spend their time.

National Seniors CEO and Director of Research, Professor John McCallum says the research is important due to the fact that volunteering often goes unrecognised.

“Because it’s unpaid, volunteering is often invisible and not recognised in terms of its economic benefit, productivity and contribution to society as a whole and that creates a huge injustice to those people who give up their time to work,” Professor McCallum said.

2022 Senior Australian of the year Val Dempsey with former PM Scott Morrison.

Senior Australian of the Year, Val Dempsey who was awarded the honour for her tireless volunteering work says there are so many areas Australians can help with their time, effort and good will.

“No, it’s never really easy to step forward but the rewards, the special moments that provide personal growth and awareness are yours to treasure and are waiting for you to enjoy and share,” said Val.

Participants of the survey also revealed the types of organisations they volunteer for including:
• Organisations that help groups of people in need such as victims of domestic violence, the homeless or asylum seekers;
• Organisations that serve a cause beyond helping disadvantaged people, such as helping
• Institutions such as community centres, schools, universities and TAFEs, churches and hospitals;
• Identity-based communities the respondent belongs to that is related to their age, religion, sexuality, gender, culture, nationality, profession, disability or health condition.

The survey also revealed some of the barriers facing those wishing to volunteer.

COVID was the most common reason people raised for not doing voluntary work, while others said their own disability or health, prevented them from undertaking volunteering.

Professor McCallum also noted the difficulty in trying to quantify volunteer work because many people who do unpaid work, such as caring, don’t consider themselves as volunteers.

“It’s somewhat ironic that we had more than 60 people who said they didn’t have time to do more voluntary hours, or not do any at all because they are too busy caring for a loved one,” he said.

Or as Val Dempsey puts it: “To those family members that keep the home fires burning, who do the shopping and make the bed just for you, who tirelessly keep reminding you for the fourth time that you have appointments or to take your medications on time…I say a huge thank you.”

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