Report highlights role of older people in caring and volunteering

Over 65s are the most likely to do voluntary and caring work, but that work needs to be measured, valued and incentivised and healthy ageing needs greater investment, says a new report.

Intergenerational Care


People aged 65 and over spend more time volunteering and caring than any other age group, with the average contribution across Europe amounting to 124 hours per person per year, according to a new study.

The International Longevity Centre ’s report “Health equals wealth” also finds that the average unpaid contributions of older people across the EU and Turkey could be worth as much as 1.4% of GDP – more than what these countries spend on defence.

The report also highlights variation in the amount of caring and volunteering done by older adults across the world:

  • In the Netherlands, older people spend an average of 67 hours a year volunteering and 91 hours informally helping other households.
  • In India and Canada, the number of hours older adults spend volunteering per year is especially notable, at 82 and 80 respectively.

The ILC report finds that older people spend more time volunteering in countries that spend more on health and preventative health as a proportion of GDP and where more people aged 65 and over report good health. They also spend more time caring or looking after grandchildren outside the household in countries where more older people (aged 65 and over) are not limited in daily activities.

The ILC notes that, whilst time spent volunteering per person increases with age, the number of volunteers falls after the age of 65 in many countries – potentially due to worsening health.

In addition to its general calls for G20 Governments to spent at least 6% of their health budgets on preventative health interventions, to tailor health interventions to the most disadvantage and to support the development of the health and care economy, it recommends that governments recognise and measure unpaid contributions of older people; take into account the impact of health on unpaid contributions when making decisions about investing in health; and develop strategies to support older carers and grandparents and enable and incentivise volunteering at all ages.

David Sinclair. Director of the ILC, says: “We’ve become accustomed to our ageing population being presented as a bad thing.  Dangerous rhetoric painting older people as disposable has become far too common, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can’t ignore the challenges for the public purse and the wider economy – but realising the opportunities of ageing can help address these.”

“Unpaid contributions from older people are strengthening communities and helping to support the formal economy.”

“We must invest in preventative health to ensure we maximise the longevity dividend. To better capture not only the significant formal, but also informal contributions of older people, we should move towards complementing GDP with a measure that factors in health and inclusion such as the Inclusive Development Index.”

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