Fear for the future of volunteers

If older Australians were to cease donating their time for volunteering it would leave the Government with a $46 billion hole to fill.

The Modern Australian Communities report – the ninth instalment of The Australian Seniors Series – reveals that 53 per cent of Australians aged over 50 are involved in organised volunteering within the community.

This equates to 2.2 million seniors donating their time each week, at an average of around 411.9 hours a year which, at minimum wage, would add up to $46.5 billion in unpaid work.

Should the rate of volunteering decline, which more than two thirds of those surveyed are concerned will happen, the economy would surely take a massive hit.

“Aussie seniors are already seeing a downward trend in volunteering, which is likely to continue over the next decade as the current generation of over-50s starts to wind back their volunteering commitments,” said Australian Seniors Insurance Agency spokesperson Simon Hovell.

“The research shows that the majority of Australian seniors agree their generation tends to volunteer less in their local community than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. In addition, nearly a third of seniors say they’re less likely to volunteer in ten years’ time due to their health, mobility or availability of time.”

Many older Australians face time and health concerns, and believe that the lack of government support for volunteers has a part to play in the decline in volunteers.

However, 29.1 per cent cite out-of-pocket expenses as their number one barrier preventing or dissuading them from volunteering. Only 16.2 per cent are reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, with 83.8 per cent left out of pocket.

Three in five think the government should help minimise bureaucracy around volunteering and provide more financial support for local community organisations.

Around half of those surveyed think the Government could improve infrastructure to facilitate volunteering work, create websites to help match people up to volunteering opportunities, and to promote the benefits of participating in volunteering.

“While there are a number of contributing issues that seniors feel are making volunteering increasingly difficult to get involved in, a key factor causing many seniors to worry about the future of volunteering is the simultaneous rise of political correctness and decline in community-mindedness. The majority of seniors (70.3 per cent) agree that political correctness is making it harder to volunteer, and around the same number (73.7 per cent) believe the death of traditional community-mindedness is prevalent in our current society,” said Mr Hovell.

Volunteering also has positive benefits aside from economic concerns, and this is also reflected in the survey results, with most respondents believing it helps to keep the mind healthy, improve self-esteem and promote self worth. Around nine in 10 say it reduces loneliness and improves their mental health.

Read the report at www.seniors.com.au

Do you volunteer your time and money? Could the Government do more to support volunteers?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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