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Helping you and your loved ones live well in later life

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Volunteer opportunities for older adults

Volunteering as an older adult can help others, combat isolation and result in a more active lifestyle.

March 23, 2023

Group of elderly volunteers

Research shows that volunteering at any age can enhance wellbeing, give greater life satisfaction and happiness, and decrease signs of depression.

In later years, some older people find that they can become increasingly socially isolated, experience loneliness and find it challenging to stay active and motivated about life. Volunteering can be an excellent way for older adults to form connections with people they might not otherwise meet, find new meaning in life and help others along the way.

In this article, we look at why and how volunteering can be beneficial for the elderly, along with suggesting some ideas for older adults with a range of different skills and circumstances for how they can volunteer and help others in later life.

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Why volunteer in later life?

There are lots of reasons why older people might choose to volunteer regularly. One such reason can be availability; older volunteers can sometimes have more free time available to volunteer, especially during the day if they are retired.

While there are many beneficial hobbies and interests for the over 60s, many people also want to feel that they are helping others and doing something meaningful at times, which is where volunteering can come in.

Volunteering doesn’t need to be a big time commitment, so this can fit well with older people who still have active and busy lives but also want to support others in their community.

Many older people can feel lonely and isolated at times, significantly since the start of the pandemic, when many organised groups, events and activities for the elderly stopped, and some have never restarted.

Starting to volunteer for a local organisation or charity can be a great way to meet people and find new friends.

Whether you think you might benefit from volunteering for a local project yourself, or perhaps you have an older loved one who you think would like to get involved, there are many potential benefits to volunteering in later life.


The benefits of volunteering in later life

Some of the many benefits of being a volunteer in later years can include:

  • Preventing loneliness and social isolation by spending time with other volunteers and people being helped
  • Help with gaining confidence through working with others and making a difference
  • Mental health benefits, with volunteering being known to help people have a positive outlook on life and to combat things such as depression
  • Keeping the brain active can have both physical and mental health benefits
  • Gives a sense of purpose because volunteering makes a genuine difference to those being helped
  • Helping to meet new people, maybe from different generations and walks of life, but with things in common
  • Helping with staying active and giving a reason to go out and about
  • Helping to gain new skills – no one is ever too old for that!

Find out more

Find out more about the benefits of volunteering in later life.

Benefits of volunteering


How to make friends as an older person through volunteering

Many older people find that it becomes more challenging to see and spend time with established friends as well as form new friendships as they get older.

Elderly friends

Those who are not as mobile as they used to be can find it more difficult to get out and about. Perhaps the older person has had to stop driving or isn’t confident undertaking longer journeys or using public transport, so seeing people they already know becomes harder.

Meeting new people can be daunting, but spending time with people is essential for helping combat loneliness and social isolation. In addition, volunteering can be a great way to make new friends with people with a shared goal.

Joining a group of volunteers means becoming part of a team, which can be great for building new connections with people outside the usual social circle they may never have otherwise met. Having a joint purpose in volunteering can help boost confidence as well as play a role in developing new friendships.


The best volunteering opportunities for seniors to do at home

For those who aren’t able to regularly volunteer out and about, perhaps due to mobility issues, medical conditions or any other reasons, there are lots of volunteering opportunities for seniors at home. Some ideas include:

Creating craft items for charity

If the older person has a craft skill, such as knitting, crocheting or sewing (or wants to learn), they can help others and join a wider volunteering group or organisation.

Elderly knitting club

Loving Hands is one group that helps organise this kind of thing. Local charities are also often very grateful for donated items like knitted blankets, throws, hats and handmade accessories such as hats and scarves. These can often be sold to raise funds for the charity, or used as prizes in fundraising events like raffles, if not used directly.

Becoming a pen pal

For those older people who love to write and/or receive letters, becoming a pen pal through an organisation can be a lovely way to volunteer and help make someone else’s day brighter, as well as the elderly person benefitting too.

Some existing organisations and groups include PostPals, which enables people to write letters or send cards to children who are poorly in hospital, and Omega A Letter from Louise, a pen pal befriending service.

Volunteer for telephone befriending

Whether done locally through another charity or group or with a national organisation such as Age UK, telephone befriending can be a rewarding volunteer opportunity. The services match the older volunteer with an elderly person to have a half-hour phone call every week, to help combat social isolation and provide some friendly and positive conversation.


Great volunteering opportunities for older adults who like to be active

Dog walking or pet fostering

Many older folk love being around pets but don’t necessarily want the responsibility or expense of having a pet full-time. A great way for people like this to volunteer is by working with charities and organisations that look after people’s pets if they are poorly or taken into a hospital or a care home. 

Elderly couple walking dog

This could involve walking a dog for someone in the local area who is not able to exercise their pet themselves or could even include fostering a pet, e.g. having someone’s pet in the home temporarily while they are in hospital or otherwise unable to look after their pet for a period of time. The organisation will usually cover all of the regular bills of the pet for this time, so it isn’t something that needs to be expensive.

Organisations looking for volunteers like this across the UK include The Cinnamon Trust, and most national and local animal rehoming charities are always looking for pet fosterers to look after pets until they find a new home.

Volunteering at a charity shop

Most villages, towns and cities have at least one charity shop that sells donated goods to raise money for the chosen cause and these are usually staffed mainly or entirely by volunteers. Being a volunteer in this kind of setting is great for those older people who like to be sociable, and chat with other staff and customers regularly. Moreover, most charity shop volunteers can choose their level of commitment, which could be as little as a few hours a month or more of a regular shop duty.

Volunteering at a local food bank or community pantry/hub

The number of food banks and community pantries or hubs has increased significantly over the last few years, and these places have huge importance to many, especially during a cost-of-living crisis. Volunteering at a local location can be a great way to contribute positively to the community and regularly meet new people and fellow volunteers. In addition, this kind of volunteering has an immediate impact on the people that the service helps, so many people find it very rewarding.

Most towns and cities are also likely to have small, independent charities and community groups that are always looking for more volunteers, so it’s worth looking around locally to see what could be a good match.


Peace of mind when volunteering in later life

Volunteering in later life can be very beneficial for everyone involved, but it’s natural and common for the loved ones of the older volunteer to worry about whether they’ll be safe while helping others out.

Some tips for helping with this include:

  • Making sure that the volunteering organisation or group gives the older volunteer any training and instruction needed to carry out their activities safely
  • Making sure that appropriate checks are carried out on volunteers by the organisation or group, such as DBS checks, when appropriate
  • Considering a personal alarm for the volunteer to wear when helping out, whether at home or when out and about. One press of the button will raise an alert if something happens.

Advice and guidance

Our Independent Living Advisors are here to help and make sure that you choose the personal alarm for the elderly that will offer the features that are right for your situation. You can call us on freephone 0800 085 7371 for tailored assistance.

0800 085 7371


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