Presentation on theme: "Volunteering and ageing: Pathways into social inclusion in later life Jeni Warburton John Richards Chair of Rural Aged Care Research La Trobe University,"— Presentation transcript:
Volunteering and ageing: Pathways into social inclusion in later life Jeni Warburton John Richards Chair of Rural Aged Care Research La Trobe University, Australia
Overview 1.Social inclusion as a policy goal: what is it and how does it relate to ageing? 2.Are older people at risk of social exclusion? 3.What approaches have governments adopted to reduce social exclusion in later life? 4.How and why is volunteering a way to reduce social exclusion? 5.Is it an effective approach? What is needed if volunteering is to be promoted as a pathway to social inclusion?
Social inclusion: what is it? The process by which efforts are made to ensure that everyone, regardless of their experiences and circumstances, can achieve their potential in life. (Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, 2007)
Key elements Sufficient income is important but not enough – shift to the social dimension Strive to reduce inequality ; balance between rights and responsibilities; increased social cohesion Recognise that there are barriers which prevent people taking full role in society Social inclusion opposite of social exclusion
Inclusion in society An individual is socially excluded if he or she does not participate in key activities of the society in which he or she lives (Burchardt et al., 2002)
Multidimensional concept Consumption – capacity to buy goods and services Production – participation in economically or socially valuable activities Political engagement – involvement in local or national decision-making Social interaction – integration with others (Burchardt et al., 2002)
Social inclusion as a policy goal Social inclusion is becoming a policy goal of many governments Requires multidimensional attention and life course approach More than simple removal of social constraints – requires change in public attitudes, service delivery approaches, opportunities for civic engagement
Relevance to ageing Focus from material resources to social inclusion important in ageing societies Economic dimension less relevant in policy than social participation Global evidence supporting that older people need meaningful roles and relationships – society for all ages Action aimed at combatting exclusion in later life makes sense both socially for older people and economically for governments (enabling rather than intervening) (Scharf et al., 2001; Phillipson & Scharf, 2004)
Increased risks of social exclusion in later life Older people are more vulnerable to social exclusion – why? Life course approach – increased social disadvantage as people age Older people vulnerable to loss – of partner, friends, work contacts – shrinking social world Age discrimination / ageism rife Those particularly at risk The old-old; no children; poor health; male; low income; different ethnic group; live outside city with poor access
International policy initiatives Four main categories of interventions: General information services eg enquiry lines Integrated community projects eg age friendly communities Learning activities eg University of the Third Age Volunteer activities – recognising & valuing prior knowledge and experience (Bartlett, Lui & Warburton, 2007)
Volunteering as a potential pathway to inclusion Volunteering is a key way older people can contribute to society post paid work It is a productive ageing activity Can be assessed as economically valuable But more important is socially valuable … both for society in terms of cohesion & quality of life – but also for individual volunteers
Volunteering is good for you Offers individuals social and health benefits Evidence of improved life satisfaction, reduced morbidity and mortality, better mental health Why? 1. provides a positive role identity 2. raises confidence and self-esteem 3. provides an external focus 4. is associated with sense of agency & control 5. is a generative activity (positive human development) 6. is a social activity that can counter loneliness and social isolation (Warburton, 2006).
So far, so good Interventions based on volunteering thus have huge potential to build social inclusion among older people And are at the heart of many policy interventions eg U3A, Better Government for Older People But how effective are they?
Need to consider Volunteering is an activity of choice – many people choose other productive / socially useful activities Many supportive but less involved – why? Focus on large body of research into motivation to volunteer in later life But also need to acknowledge structural dimension if volunteering is to be an appropriate pathway into social inclusion
Structural dimension Demographic profile of volunteers is narrow – tends to exclude those with fewer social and economic resources eg lower education, poor English ability Governments often offer organisations very little support instead impose increased regulation No policies / programs to ensure good, equitable management and practices
Barriers and incentives Need to explore barriers and incentives to volunteering by a more diverse group of older people Results of an Australian study suggest that more incentives are needed eg more training, more flexible & diverse options, more inter-generational opportunities Significant barriers included negative perceptions of volunteer activities, fear of ageism / discrimination, and concerns about increased regulation (Warburton et al., 2007)
Challenges to social inclusion Volunteer programs will not necessarily ensure social inclusion A proactive policy approach is needed that recognises the benefits of volunteering to society and individuals – to ensure that –there are a broad range of options available for older people to volunteer if they choose to do so, and such options are promoted; –organisations have the capacity to manage their volunteers well, offer appropriate training, have processes in place to deal with age-related issues; –they are able / willing to recruit a broad cross-section of older people This approach needs to be proactive and based on provision of support to organisations dealing with volunteers (rather than enforcement ie regulation)
Conclusions Social inclusion is a broad, multidimensional concept In later life, such policies are directed at older people maintaining meaningful roles and relationships so that they can age well A key policy approach is based on volunteering. Evidence is clear that volunteering is important for society and for older people’s health and social well-being
Conclusions Hence volunteering offers an important pathway into social inclusion As recognised in policy However, some challenges remain, and broader, more proactive policies are needed to encourage and support older people to volunteer Otherwise volunteering will simply reinforce advantage and not offer opportunities to all regardless of their life circumstances.