As the Canadian population consists of almost 15 million adults aged 45 and over, representing 43% of the population and 372 million volunteer hours in 2010, there should be strong consideration granted to targeting this older demographic to join the volunteering team. Interestingly, in comparison to their younger counterparts they volunteer at a much lower rate, but those that do volunteer contribute more hours per year. After reviewing the report, the following are some key considerations when developing volunteer recruiting strategies.
Know Your Demographic – Each demographic tends to gravitate towards a specific type of organization and identifying what they are will ensure that your strategies are tailored with them in mind. For example, baby boomers (those aged 55-64) are most likely to supervise events or serve on boards or committees, while seniors (aged 65+) were more likely to provide counselling or provide health care services support. Also understanding their motivations for volunteering, whether to contribute to the community or using it as a social outlet will help tailor volunteer roles to ensure that there is a good match between the organization and the volunteer.
Address Their Needs – The older volunteer faces some challenges when giving their time. As they get older health issues, changes in physical ability, location, lack of transportation or scheduling conflicts may become a concern. Anticipating and preparing for these challenges in advance will ensure that there is no volunteering burn out. Some strategies found on the report to retain volunteers in this demographic includes: modifying their program, adjusting their schedules, switching assignments or taking a break. Nonprofits can be creative with how they engage and retain older adults as volunteers.
Benefits – There are many benefits to having older adults volunteering their time to an organization’s cause. The organization receives benefits, both social and economic, while the older adult receives both physical and emotional health benefits and keeps them integrated within the community. It’s a win-win situation specifically because an older adult is likely to be a loyal volunteer that has vast life experience and depending on their situation have a flexible availability.
Engaging the older adult and integrating them into the organization’s team of volunteers may require some additional time and planning but will be well worth the effort. Making this time-investment at the beginning will ensure the longevity of the older adult volunteer-life-span which will be rewarding to all. The 55-page Volunteering and Older Adults report goes into more detail on older adult challenges and barriers and strategies on how to engage them. Well worth a read.