The role of older citizens in community building


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This seminar was the third in a series of seminars focusing on volunteering in a fair society organised by IVR in partnership with the ESRC and Northumbria University. This event explored how individuals and communities can most effectively make their voices heard.

John Ramsey, Head of Volunteering at Age UK discussed the role of older citizens in community building.

Past presentations from the Institute of Volunteering Research website can be found at the following location -

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The role of older citizens in community building

  1. 1. The role of older citizens in community building John Ramsey, Head of Volunteering Age UK 8th December 2011
  2. 2. About older people • More people aged 60+ than there are under 18 • 1 in 5 of the population is of state pension age • People aged 60+ projected to rise by over 50% in the next 25 years The ageing society is a very present, national reality.
  3. 3. About older people Majority of older people believe that: • age discrimination exists in the daily lives of older people • those who plan services do not pay enough attention to the needs of older people • politicians see older people as a low priority • the country fails to make good use of the skills and talents of older people 3.7 million older people live alone. 60% of people aged 65+ have never used the internet.
  4. 4. About older people • A growing group of people with a lifetime of skills, knowledge and experience. • A growing group of people who feel under-valued, under-used and discriminated against.
  5. 5. Five challenges • Recognising the value of older people as contributors • Making localism effective • Making co-design work • Breaking down the barriers to volunteering • Linking volunteering to wider engagement
  6. 6. Recognising the value of older people as contributors Evidence Review of Older people as Volunteers – Age UK Pulls together existing research that demonstrates the value of older volunteers: • Benefit for service-users • Benefit for older volunteers themselves • Benefit for organisations Together we need to challenge the stereotype of older people as just recipients. That in fact they are: • Major providers of services; and • Provide enormous benefits
  7. 7. Making localism effective A localist approach should ensure there are no barriers for older people to have a greater say in their neighbourhood and shape the services they need. But there is currently no guarantee this will happen. VCOs need to move away from the traditional service-delivery model to having a key role in empowering service-users to speak up. Volunteering can a play a part in enabling this. For example: • Volunteering builds confidence and self-esteem • Volunteers can act as a trusted conduit to enable vulnerable older people to have their say and get more involved.
  8. 8. Making co-design work Co-design and co-production - the current buzz-words. Widely-used but not necessarily undertaken properly. Often insufficient understanding of the quality and depth of activity needed to underpin them if they are to be successful. Case Study: Designing Better Services Together – Partnership between Age UK Newcastle, Northumbria University and Quality of Life Partnership
  9. 9. Breaking down the barriers to volunteering Key reasons: • Not enough spare time • Put off by paper-work and bureaucracy • Don’t know how to find out about getting involved Not changed much in the last 15 years. Only real success disappearance of the ‘volunteer retirement age’. But this has been replaced by a lack of volunteering opportunities that meet the needs of volunteers.
  10. 10. Linking volunteering to wider engagement People engage with organisations in many different ways. Engagement is not a linear process. Volunteering does not sit alone. Organisations need to understand: • the relationship between volunteering and other forms of pro-social behaviour; and • how to engage with individuals in these different relationships