Engaging Senior Volunteers

5 July 2021 | News

In the Marlborough region, there are many mature volunteers...seniors, if you will...who want to volunteer and many organisations and groups wanting to engage with them. So how do we make this happen? Over the years, Volunteer Marlborough has conducted various bits of research and focus groups to learn more about what this demographic is looking for in a volunteer opportunity, and some of the barriers that they experience.

So here's 7 Key Things for Organisations to Remember When Looking to Engage Senior Volunteers:

Seniors aren't a homogenous group
Seniors can range in age from 55 to 110 years old and, in that range, will encompass a vast array of cultural backgrounds, life and work experiences, abilities and knowledge. Make sure that when you're recruiting new volunteers that you acknowledge this diversity and that you're not acting on misperceptions.

Seniors have a lot of expertise to offer
Many people in this group have been working for upwards of 35 years and have a wealth of professional and personal expertise to offer your organisation. Make sure that you have roles that recognise this experience and utilise it to benefit your organisation.

Seniors may need special accommodations made
Some seniors may need physical accommodations in their volunteer role. These may include being able to sit instead of stand, not being expected to carry heavy items, a quieter work-space in order to hear well, additional training, and more. If you want to engage more senior volunteers, you should also make sure that you can provide proper accommodation as needed.

Seniors may have trouble with the perceived hurdles of the application process
Over the past couple of decades, the volunteer recruitment and screening process has moved to be mostly online and, for some people, this has made the entire process a bit more challenging. Try to provide alternative methods for seniors to find out about and apply for your volunteer roles, such as hard-copy newsletters and in-person application forms.

Seniors may want flexibility in their role
Some organisations seem to have the idea that senior volunteers 'have nothing better to do' and so will be the most consistent for scheduling and commitments. However, it is important to remember that seniors want flexibility to be able to go and do things like travel, look after grandchildren, health visit, and more. If you can offer flexibility in your volunteer roles, it will allow seniors to actively engage in their volunteer roles and their personal life.

Seniors may not have a recent CV or cover letter
Asking for a cover letter and CV may discourage anyone, let alone a senior who has been out of the workforce for 15 years. Consider asking for a self-assessment of skills, or highlights of experience.

Seniors want to be respected for their age
One of the biggest takeaways from talking with seniors over the last few years has been that, like any of us, senior want to be respect for their age and the experience that comes with that. Recognise that seniors have a lot to offer the community and respect all that they do, while also accommodating any needs they may have for where they are in life.