We know that as our population ages we will see more people in need of support to maintain their health and wellbeing, but it’s also very clear that a major part of the solution lies not just in helping older folks, but in enabling us to help each other and the communities we live in. We need to be thinking not just about harnessing the power of communities to support older people, but also – and crucially – the power of older people to support the communities of which we are an essential part.

Many older people already contribute significantly to our communities, most often in a volunteer capacity. Volunteering, whether in a visitor center, a food kitchen or a charity shop, improves people’s social lives, helps bridge the generation gap, and provides a real sense of purpose. It keeps us seniors active while offering a flexible schedule.

Sadly, many of those most in need of these wellbeing benefits are least likely to get involved. There are significant gaps between the rates at which the richest and poorest, those in the best and the poorest health, get involved in volunteering. We need to think about how we create opportunities to volunteer to more diverse groups of people, and how we can encourage and support more people to take part in the life of their communities.

In this section you will find some useful links to umbrella organisations which help match skills and experience to community opportunities, together with research demonstrating the benefits of older people being involved in their communities.

It’s a win-win; both you and your community benefit. Think of yourself as an asset, not as a burden!