TAO/Handbook/Mutual Benefits of Volunteer Work

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Mutual Benefits of Volunteer Work - For Older Adults and Online Communities

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This chapter describes the benefits of volunteer work for both older adults and online communities. These benefits can be recommended when a person is considering becoming a volunteer, or when an online community is reflecting upon the idea of engaging older volunteers.

Recommendations[edit | edit source]

Following mutual benefits of volunteer work can be recommended to older adults and online communities.

Benefits of volunteers work

Benefits for the older adult Benefits for the online communities
More social contacts:
  • The volunteer work provides ample opportunities for contacts to other volunteers and other participants, possibly persons one would not meet otherwise.
  • The volunteer work contributes to one’s social network, and positively affects one’s well-being.
Profit from competences:
  • Online communities profit from the competences, perspectives and experience of the older adults.
Being active:
  • The feeling of being active is generally considered a positive experience.
Flexible time resources:
  • Older adults are generally not as heavily involved in professional activities anymore and can use their time in a more flexible way than younger persons.
Experience self-competence:
  • Being active in an online community provides experiences of personal competence (self-efficacy).
Access to new funding:
  • Involving older adults may give an online community access to new funding resources.
Being part of greater purpose
  • The involvement in an online community allows people to be part of a greater purpose (e.g. free knowledge, empowerment). The activities in the online community may be meaningful and can be deeply satisfying.

Practical Background[edit | edit source]

Once retirement begins, many older adults reflect about their wishes for the next period in their life and question their place in society. Voluntary engagement could offer a response to such questions. Voluntary engagement is a possible way for older adults to “continue to experience themselves as productive, [can] expand their skills and experience themselves as competent (…), which in turn plays a role in the development of their identity” (Steinfort 2010, p.61). Moreover, a voluntary engagement does not only allow older adults to develop (a different form of) self-recognition, they are also recognized for it by others.

Literature references[edit | edit source]

  • Charles, S. T. & Carstensen, L. L. (2009). Social and Emotional Aging. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383-409.
  • Steinfort, J. (2010).Identität und Engagement im Alter. Eine empirische Untersuchung, Wiesbaden, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.