Senior Volunteerism: Where Priorities And Purpose Converge

Insights from a national study on volunteerism reveal that seniors will volunteer when their priorities are addressed, resulting in benefits for seniors and the wider society.

SINGAPORE, 14 SEPTEMBER 2019 – By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans is expected to be aged 65 and older. Yet based on the findings from the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Silver Volunteerism (Silver V) Study, in 2018 only 22% of seniors volunteer while 59% seniors have never volunteered. This has led NVPC to turn the spotlight on silver volunteerism for their biennial Individual Giving Study (IGS) in 2018, with the hope of changing public perception and the narrative on ageing.

Key insights on what seniors prioritise, the ways in which they can be engaged to volunteer, as well as the benefits associated with volunteering were released in conjunction with the launch of RSVP Singapore’s fifth annual National Senior Volunteer Month.

“Seniors are more familiar with giving cash donations. Volunteering is not an activity that readily occurs to them because of their priorities. However, this study highlights nine accessible ways in which seniors can be engaged to volunteer that intertwine with their existing priorities, creating a win-win for both seniors and society.”, said Mr Jeffrey Tan, Director of Knowledge, Marketing & Advocacy at NVPC.

In a nutshell, the Silver V study found that seniors lead a daily routine centered around their family and immediate community, and that seniors aged 50 to 64 ranked their priorities slightly differently from seniors aged 65+.

Based on the priorities, the study proposes nine avenues by which seniors can be engaged to volunteer. Not only does this address their priorities, but also aids in rediscovering their purpose, identity, and strengthening their sense of belonging in society.

NVPC Board member Professor David Chan, who is also Director of the Behavioural Sciences Institute at the Singapore Management University said, “The findings on ‘younger seniors’ show not just their availability to volunteer, but also ability and willingness to contribute. As we encourage seniors to keep healthy and continue working, we should recognise that seniors not only possess economic capital but also human and social capital that could be harnessed for the good of all of society.”

“Research has shown that giving and well-being affects each other. As seniors contribute, they also develop psychological capital for a fulfilling life as they age, with a sense of optimism, hope, self-efficacy and resilience. Everyone should seriously rethink the concept of ageing, and treat seniors as assets that can be part of policy solutions and for building social and psychological capital in Singapore, rather than seeing them as liabilities”, said Professor Chan.

Nine themes to engage senior volunteerism

With ‘family commitments’ listed as one of the top priorities of seniors, encouraging volunteering as a family or social activity is in line with the ideal retirement scenario of giving while bonding with family and friends. The IGS Silver V Study findings revealed that 79% of seniors who volunteer reported having someone to confide in, while 75% reported having someone they could reach out to in times of need. In fact, it was discovered that senior volunteers aged 65 and above are able to reach out to twice as many people in times of need compared to those who do not, suggesting that volunteering could play a part in minimising social isolation.

Neighbourhood and religious groups are excellent platforms for senior volunteers due to their ease of access, and it was also found that more among them engage in informal volunteerism (ie: ground-up efforts in which, instead of working with or donating to an organisation, people serve on their own to help others) compared to the younger population as they are more receptive to helping others on their own terms. Corporate volunteerism that entails work-related skills was found to be predominant among seniors aged 50 to 64.

​Benefits of volunteering: Health, connectedness, confidence

Some of the potential benefits brought about by senior volunteering include opportunities to mentor future generations, acquire new skills, as well as health and relaxation, which also ranks highly as a priority of seniors.

In the study, more senior volunteers report better health and life satisfaction. 76% of senior volunteers report better health compared to 63% of senior non-volunteers, whilst 84% of senior volunteers report better life satisfaction as compared to 76% of senior non-volunteers. An association between positive psychological effects such as an increased sense of accomplishment and greater sense of purpose were also associated with seniors who volunteer as opposed to those who do not.

Despite the intrinsic benefits, senior volunteerism remains low and cash donations continue being the highest form of giving among seniors.

Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairman of NVPC said, “Everyone has needs and everyone can give. Seniors represent untapped potential for our society, and it is our hope to bridge their priorities with simple and accessible ways of volunteering. As seniors are empowered to serve, they too will reap the benefits of greater connectedness and feel valued through their contributions to society. By unleashing the skills and passion of older adults, we see that they could be the opportunity and solution to our changing demographics.”

For the full Silver Volunteerism Study 2018 with detailed findings, visit

For media queries and interviews, please contact:
Rachael Klyne, NVPC
DID: 65509383

​​About the Individual Giving Study 2018​ – Silver V Study

Since 2000, Individual Giving Study (IGS) is a biennial study conducted by NVPC to find out how people in Singapore give through volunteerism, philanthropy and other behaviours. IGS has a nationally representative sample of age, gender, race and housing type in Singapore (within four percentage points of Singapore’s population). The sampling framework consists of a list of representative households from the Singapore Department of Statistics.

IGS 2018, conducted by Consulting Group – Asia Insight Pte. Ltd. for NVPC, was done in two phases, beginning with a quantitative phase, followed by a qualitative study. A total of 2,100 surveys, of which 1,000 are seniors aged 50 and above, were completed from August 2018 to November 2018 for the quantitative study. Statistical weighting was applied to the sample data to arrive at national estimates.

The IGS 2018 – Silver V Study focuses on these 1,000 seniors. In the second phase, 18 face-to-face in-depth interviews with seniors were conducted from January 2019 to February 2019, comprising six individual interviews and six dyad (paired) sessions.

About National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)

NVPC is a non-profit organisation promoting a giving culture in Singapore through catalysing development in volunteerism and philanthropy to build a City of Good. We facilitate partnerships with non-profits, companies, public sector bodies and individuals to enliven the giving ecosystem within Singapore.

We curate and celebrate stories about giving to inspire and encourage more to take action. We conduct research on giving motivations and behaviours, create roadmaps and landscape of the giving sector, and strive to be the go-to-place for giving. We honour and recognise giving champions who demonstrate that giving is part of Singapore DNA. We connect and convene networks and build communities to impact the giving space on a national level.

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