Volunteering in older age: An organizational perspective

Andrea Principi, Robert Lindley, Jolanta Perek-Bialas, Konrad Turek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to shed light on organizational perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of engaging older volunteers, and on how they might best capitalize on the availability of older volunteers in different countries and sectors. Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws from 74 case studies of voluntary organizations carried out in eight European countries, conducted mainly between spring 2009 and autumn 2010. On-site interviews adopting common guidelines were carried out with organizational representatives. Findings: From the organizational perspectives, some disadvantages of engaging older volunteers are: difficulties matching older volunteers to tasks; problems relating to health and declining capacities; the need for special training efforts. Examples of perceived advantages are: considerable knowledge, skills, experience, reliability and strong commitment of older volunteers. In spite of the very different contexts, objectives and notions of "performance", cost-benefit assessments of older volunteers do not differ greatly from those generally held by employers about older employees. Countries differ considerably in the recognition of older volunteer potential. Practical implications: Organizational policies and initiatives to capitalize on the availability of older volunteers are examined in the paper. Country and sector-related reflections show how different and changing are the environments for volunteering. Policy makers need to recognise these when implementing active ageing policies. Voluntary organizations should raise their awareness of the need for innovation in volunteer management, especially relating to older people. Originality/value: There has been much research about the experiences of older volunteers and how they benefit from the operations of civil society organizations. The perceptions of the organizations have, however, been neglected and these are explored in this paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-703
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Manpower
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • Active ageing
  • Elderly people
  • Human resource management
  • Older volunteers
  • Organizational perspective
  • Voluntary organizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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