In the last decade, volunteering among older adults has received growing attention among researchers, policymakers, and associations. Volunteer participation has gained popularity for the reason that it includes behaviors that take place in the realm of civil society, hence, strengthen communities as well as the well-being of older adults. However, there still remains a lack of knowledge in ageing research on the extent to which the relation between social ties and volunteer participation may vary.
Design and Methods: Using a mixed-method approach consisting of two consecutive phases, this article aims to identify social contextual factors that promote older people's volunteer participation. In the first phase, quantitative data from the Belgian Ageing Studies (N= 67,144 from 141 municipalities) were used to purposively select six municipalities: low, mediocre, and high rates of volunteering. In the second, qualitative phase, focus groups with older people themselves were conducted in each of the six case study areas in order to explain and build on the quantitative results.
Results: Research findings indicate that social ties, in particular formal social ties (membership in associations) appeared to be a key element for understanding the social contextual nature of volunteer participation.
Besides, social integration also appeared crucial for volunteering. New arrivals emphasized the importance of membership and policy activities. Older adults do not only need to have social ties, but also need to be embedded into their community before being able to participate.
Implications: The article concludes by discussing practical and policy issues raised by the research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Society of Gerontology Annual conference
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2014
Event43rd Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontology - Southampton, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sep 20143 Sep 2014


Conference43rd Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontology
CountryUnited Kingdom

    Research areas

  • Volunteering, Potential volunteers, co-occurring activities

ID: 2495738