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The Untapped Potential of Silver Volunteers

The number of silver volunteers may be low (for now), but here's why engaging them could turn out to be a golden idea.

Ageing used to be a taboo. But in recent years, the conversation in Singapore has shifted from talking about the elderly as liabilities to assets. Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, or pursuing a second career, there is nothing seniors cannot do. So what about mobilising them as volunteers?  

Compared to bubbly schoolkids and purpose-driven millennials, seniors seem like a tougher sell. Despite a gradual rise over the years, the volunteerism rate among seniors aged 50 and above has always been one of the lowest in Singapore (29%) compared to the overall population (35%)*. Some reasons might be that seniors have care-giving duties or are still working to support their retirement. 

But dig deeper and you may find that courting silvers can be a golden idea. Here's why! 

Surprise! Seniors Volunteer More 'Deeply'

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The fact is, seniors who do volunteer are some of the most loyal folks you’ll have in your volunteer pool. NVPC research shows that older volunteers in Singapore commit more time, clocking about 135 volunteer hours a year – that’s 1.6 times the national average of 84 hours! Senior volunteers also tend to be ‘regulars’ with over half reporting weekly or monthly giving commitments, compared to the national average of 35 per cent.*   

Put simply: While fewer seniors volunteer relative to the population, those who do, do so on a deep and more sustained level - more so than the average Singaporean. 

New Opportunities With The New Old

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Just because the senior volunteer rate is low now, doesn't mean it will always stay this way. As Singapore’s elderly population grow, we are seeing new types of seniors with different outlooks and behaviours toward giving. Case in point: The rise of white-collared PMET seniors. More empowered, educated and richer than generations before, this group of silvers see themselves as successful and as change-agents who can make a difference in society. This means they have more potential to give back, if presented with the right opportunity.     

To find out more about what motivates seniors and other individuals in Singapore to give, check out this NVPC's presentation - The Singapore Giver: A Life Stage Perspective 

They Have Valuable Skills To Tap On

As tomorrow's seniors become better educated with richer work experiences, they will come with useful skills to contribute to the non-profit world – think managerial or professional talents in finance, marketing or HR. Volunteer activities that tap on their skills will be a meaningful way to engage them. Seniors may even see these as attractive encore careers or gigs!

Right now, seniors still gravitate towards fairly traditional volunteer activities, like befriending or doing clerical work. In contrast, only 7% served on boards or committees of non-profits while just 10% were involved in fund-raising.* This suggests that skills-based volunteerism still has much headway to grow among seniors. So why not take advantage of this gap? 

*Figures taken from NVPC’s Individual Giving Survey, 2016