Though volunteering through organizations has remained stable in the last several years, a new report from AARP finds that informal service work among baby boomers and others 45+ is on the rise.
According to the report, the number of boomers and older Americans engaged in self-directed volunteering volunteering on their own, outside of a formal organization increased from 34 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2009. Additionally, seven in 10 boomers reported they are engaged in volunteering either on their own or through an organization, which is a 20 percent increase over the number of people who say they volunteer through an organization alone.
"We have long known that baby boomers stand ready to serve, but this data gives us new information about how they are serving," said Thomas C. Nelson, AARP Chief Operating Officer. "As AARP works to activate Boomers and older Americans, we continue to track these trends so that collectively, the service community can better meet the needs of everyone interested in giving back."
The study found particularly high rates of engagement in 45+ African Americans: they are likely to be very involved in volunteer work; helping to solve neighborhood programs; political activities; and working on state or national issues. More than half of African Americans surveyed reported being very involved in religious or spiritual activities. Additionally, nearly twice as many African Americans report being very involved in educational activities compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
"African Americans have a long history of civic and volunteer engagement in their communities," Nelson said. "The data is encouraging and tells us that this tradition, which is so important to creating vibrant communities, remains strong."
Additional study highlights include:
The frequency of charitable giving among 45+ adults has increased over last year from 55 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2009. Volunteers were more likely than non-volunteers to donate to charitable or religious organizations. Among those with higher incomes, donating was a fairly common practice reported by more than 8 in 10 survey respondents.
The nature of civic engagement is changing, becoming more personal and more secular. Boomers and older Americans are less likely to join organizations. Although membership in religious organizations remains a relatively popular activity, involvement in these organizations has declined.
Volunteers have many motivations for giving their time in service, but their chief motivation is feeling a personal responsibility to help others when they need it. This reason was reported by 68 percent of volunteers overall; and rated as very important by half of all volunteers. Other top motivations cited included giving back to others, making their own lives more satisfying, and helping their own neighborhood or community.
While the rate of traditional volunteering has held steady, the amount of time volunteers spend in service has declined as volunteering becomes more episodic. In 2003 and 2009, 51 percent of survey respondents reported volunteering in the prior year. While volunteers in the 2003 study reported spending an average of 15 hours a month in volunteer service, in 2009, volunteers report spending an average of six to 10 hours per month in service a decline of five to nine hours per month over the six-year time period.
Report results are from an August 2009 telephone survey of several generations of Americans on their volunteering, giving, and civic engagement activities. The survey interviewed 1,475 Americans age 45 years and older (i.e., members of the Baby Boom, Silent, and Greatest generations) and, for comparative purposes, 500 members of Generation X (ages 29 to 44), 470 African Americans and 447 Hispanics.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 34.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's nearly 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Island.
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