Thursday, May 24, 2007

Age differences in volunteering?

It was previously thought that volunteerism gradually increased until it peaked at the age of about age 55 and then declined quickly (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000). However, previous studies did not compare different age groups while controlling for differences in sociodemographic attributes - such as the differences in mortality between men and women and the levels of education (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000). When these factors are controlled, it is evident that the older age groups are the most involved in volunteerism (Cutler & Hendricks, 2000).

Cutler and Hendrick predict that if people begin to live longer and educational levels increase, there will be even higher rates of older adult volunteering. This pool of available volunteers will also be increasing as the number of older adults in the United States increases (see a previous post). As a result, older adults are a great potential resource for libraries.

Libraries can encourage older adults to volunteer at the library and participate in intergenerational programs. In addition, libraries can act as bridges to connect older adults with local nonproft organizations and schools who are looking for volunteers. Information about local volunteer activities can be provided on signage at the library, promoted face-to-face by the staff, and included on the library website on a page set up for older adults.

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