Age, retirement and health as factors in volunteering in later life

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Volunteering in later life attracts attention because its benefits older volunteers, voluntary associations, and society. Unfortunately, researchers and practitioners struggle with the complexity of predicting who volunteers. The authors ask whether a rough identification of older volunteers solely based on age is possible. The authors answer this question by means of structural equation modeling, analyzing international survey data. The findings show that the direct effect of age on the time older people spend volunteering is negligible. Moreover, the age patterns in volunteering created by retirement and declining health are weak. Those findings make age an unsuitable indicator for volunteering in later life. The authors recommend that voluntary organizations and policy makers use personal characteristics, such as health status, when defining their target groups for programs that encourage volunteering. In addition, researchers should not use an age group when referring to the third age, meaning the active and productive part of old age. © The Author(s) 2012.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-299
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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