Older adults as volunteers in Thunder Bay
Murphy-Fricker, Maureen Anne
Master of Arts
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This is a descriptive and exploratory study which examines the characteristics and expressed motivations among older adults in Thunder Bay toward volunteerism and if altruism is in fact the main reason for why older adults volunteer. This study also investigates the continuity theory; an explanation of why these older adults might have an ongoing history of volunteering. There is also a brief section on older adults' expressed attitudes toward volunteering. An interview schedule was used for the collection of data during eighty-five face-to-face interviews with older adult volunteers aged 50 and over. The results showed that the majority of older adult volunteers in Thunder Bay are female and mainly between the ages of 50-69. Contrary to one's assumption, educational attainment does not seem to be as decisive a factor in determining their characteristics, yet many did come from "highly skilled" occupations. The combination of educational attainment and occupation lend support to the skills and experience these older adults bring to their volunteer activities. The majority of these older adults are also in "good" health, married, are Protestant, have sufficient wealth to devote their leisure time to volunteering and have generally high levels of life satisfaction. Some socio-demographic variables as well as health were examined more closely in order to provide a clearer picture of the characteristics of these older adult volunteers. For this study, the term altruistic was re-defined to mean that one volunteers to help others but with the realization of receiving something in return, and the majority of older adults in this study were found to volunteer more for "altruistic" reasons. Those who are male, married, healthier, Roman Catholic and retired also volunteer for "altruistic" reasons. As well, males perform more "support" type services and females perform more "direct" type services- Results revealed that as education increased, older adults' reasons for volunteering for generally altruistic reasons decreased, "skilled" older adults volunteer for less altruistic reasons; and with an increase in income, there was a decrease in older adults volunteering again for altruistic reasons. What was interesting was that transportation and the re-imbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, perceivably two factors that might affect older adults' ability to volunteer, was of little concern to them. Older adults in Thunder Bay also have a history of volunteering. This result affirms the continuation of life processes and supports reference to the continuity theory as explanation for why they volunteered and are not necessarily volunteering upon retirement or the loss of a role. These older adults are satisfied and happy in their volunteer endeavours yet did express frustration with the amount of effort and commitment from some other older adult volunteers.