Keen to engage senior volunteers? Here are key insights and resources from NVPC’s workshop, “Empowering Seniors Through Volunteerism”.

In collaboration with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), NVPC held a workshop on “Empowering Seniors through Volunteerism” on 7 Nov 2019. The workshop was a practical follow-up to our inaugural Individual Giving Study 2018 – Silver Volunteerism Study (Silver V Study) released by Minister Grace Fu in September 2019. It uncovered how volunteerism can improve seniors’ satisfaction in life and their sense of social and physical wellbeing through 9 different volunteering themes.

The workshop saw some 150 participants across the non-profit, corporate, government and academic spheres, who came together to discuss ways to engage seniors as actively contributing members in society.

It was a day chock-full of learning and sharing, affirming existing ties and forging new connections. Here are 4 insights that emerged through the discussion that day:

4 key insights about senior volunteerism

  1. It is never too late for anyone to start volunteering

    “All of us are at the right age to start volunteering!

    Our IGS 2018 Silver V Study found that time and physical health are common barriers for seniors to volunteer. But we also heard stories of seniors who only started volunteering in their later years. One of the volunteer leaders who came to the workshop only started volunteering when she was 61 years old!
  2. Seniors are resourceful and actively find opportunities to help others

    No need funding, no need space, I use public space!

    Space and resource constraints are common reasons which prevent organisations from volunteering. But a group of passionate seniors comes together informally every Monday at Food Republic at Somerset 313 to exchange learnings. Not only do they provide support to each other and foster space for continuous learning, they have even started an intergenerational sharing programme to benefit youths.
  3. Patience is important to get seniors to start volunteering

    You can’t force seniors to do what they are not suited or not keen to do.”

    It is important to observe seniors, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and tailor volunteering opportunities accordingly. It takes time, but as one volunteer manager shared, “It is gratifying when you see them running the show themselves.”

    Sometimes volunteer managers need to play the role of mediator and supporter to encourage these senior volunteers. Once you know their strengths, you can also grow their leadership qualities.
  4. Once ‘hooked’, seniors are loyal volunteers who will be strong advocates for your cause


    Once you empower seniors, the confidence stays with them. They are then empowered to recommend volunteering to their families, loved ones and communities.

    Some hospitals train senior volunteers—many of whom are caregivers themselves—in paraclinical skills to support healthcare workers in the wards. These are useful skills that they can apply to any organisations they volunteer with in the future.

Thanks to our “Human Library” participants!

We’d like to recognise the 10 ‘Human Books’ (aka: our partner organisations) which took part in our human library segment, sharing their programmes that illustrate the 9 volunteering themes, and their experiences of engaging senior volunteers.

Our heartfelt thanks to the Senior Volunteers and representatives from the following partner organisations for their sharing:

  • ACE Seniors on “Engaging Seniors To Volunteer With Family
  • Montfort Care’s Goodlife! Makan on “Engaging Seniors To Volunteer Through Social Activity”
  • SG Assist on “Engaging Seniors To Volunteer In Their Neighbourhood
  • Christ Methodist Church on “Engaging Seniors To Volunteer Through Faith
  • U 3rd Age on “Engaging Seniors Through Informal Volunteerism
  • Willing Hearts on “Engaging Seniors Through Corporate Volunteerism
  • Centre for Seniors’ Intergenerational Work Team Programme on “Engaging Seniors To Guide The Next Generation
  • Centre for Health Activation (Tan Tock Seng Hopsital)’s Champs Programme and Support Group on “Engaging Seniors To Acquire Skills Through Volunteering
  • National Gallery’s Docent Volunteer Programme on “Engaging Seniors To Acquire Skills Through Volunteering
  • NParks’ Community in Bloom on “Engaging Seniors Through Health & Relaxation”

Key resources about senior volunteerism

Our workshop may be over, but you can download our workshop materials and resources to learn how to engage senior volunteers.

  • NVPC’s Individual Giving Study 2018 – Silver Volunteerism Study:
    https://www.nvpc.org.sg/index.php/resources/silver-volunteerism-study
  • Empowering Seniors Resource Kit:
    Developed by NCSS, this is meant for agencies that would like to implement empowering principles using the Ladder of User Participation.
    https://www.ncss.gov.sg/GatewayPages/Social-Services/Senior/The-Empowering-Seniors-Project
  • Volunteering Programme Design:
    Non-profits can use this worksheet to guide them in brainstorming and designing volunteer programmes that better engage seniors
    Click here to download the worksheet
  • Silver Volunteer Fund:
    An initiative under the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, this fund supports programmes organised by volunteer host organisations that offer volunteering opportunities for seniors; including the training and recognition of senior volunteers in the programme. Organisations looking to develop or expand your volunteer programmes may email Council for Third Age (C3A) at svf@c3a.org.sg to find out more.