With increased pressure on health and social care expected throughout 2017, thousands of older people in Scotland plan to step in and help ease the burden by gifting their time.
New research from older people’s charity, Royal Voluntary Service, has revealed over 432,000 people in Scotland aged 55 and over plan to volunteer in 2017.
Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteer organisations in Britain. It has 35,000 volunteers, a large number of which support older people in hospital – from providing practical help and companionship on wards and making a patients’ stay in hospital more comfortable to assisting older people on their return home to settle back into their usual routine where possible.
Given demand on services is set to grow, Royal Voluntary Service says more can be done to promote the benefits of volunteering, particular to older people.
Indeed, whilst the research shows nearly one in four (23 per cent) over 55s in Great Britain who currently, or plan to volunteer said retirement was the catalyst for this, Royal Voluntary Service wants it to become an integral part of many more retirees’ plans when they hang up their boots. This is echoed by one in 10 (11 per cent) of the over 55s polled, who say all retirees should volunteer.
Josephine Mill, head of support and development for Royal Voluntary Service in Scotland, said: “Volunteers are playing an increasingly essential role in this country, bringing help, smiles and conversation into the lives of a growing number of older people.
“The contribution they make in keeping our public services, particularly in the health and social care arena, functioning cannot be underestimated. It is inspiring to hear so many older adults are planning to share their time in 2017 and provide a much needed boost to the country’s volunteer workforce.”
The study goes on to reveal the top three reasons older people want to volunteer: to give something back to the community (56 per cent), to stay mentally and physically active (38 per cent) and to meet more people (31 per cent).
Previous research conducted for Royal Voluntary Service by Professor James Nazroo also found that volunteering is not just a one-way street and by gifting their time, older people can also enjoy getting something back.
It identified that older people who volunteer are happier and healthier than their counterparts who don’t.
Josephine Mill continued: “Volunteering should not be seen purely as a way to contribute to society, but also a chance to improve our health and well-being.
“These health benefits could be promoted well through GPs and all Scotland’s healthcare workforce, and we hope one day, we might see more GPs ‘prescribing’ volunteering. The New Year is the perfect time to reflect on our lifestyle choices – from exercising more to quitting bad habits – and we’d encourage more older people to consider volunteering as a route to a healthy and happy 2017.”
Royal Voluntary Service’s volunteers help older people stay active, independent and able to continue to contribute to society. They do this by providing practical and emotional help where and when it’s needed. To find out more about volunteering opportunities available in your area please visit: www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk.