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A New Definition for Volunteering and Giving Among the 45+ Population Finds Thirty Percent Are More Inclined to Volunteer Since 9/11

More than 80% of Americans aged 45 and older are involved in helping others without pay, found a new AARP survey released today on volunteering and giving.

Read executive summary.

The new AARP survey, Time and Money: an In-Depth Look at 45+ Volunteers and Donors, is one of the first studies to comprehensively examine volunteering and giving among the 45+ population, with over samples of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics. It also provides a new definition of volunteering and giving based on adding behaviors not captured by traditional research questions in this area.

This new approach to measuring volunteering and giving did result in a higher percentage of individuals as volunteers or donors. Specifically about 51% of the middle-aged and older population reported volunteering when asked the traditional question about serving in their communities (volunteer for non-profit charities, schools, hospitals, religious organizations, neighborhood associations, civic or other groups). However, an additional 36% reported behaviors that were not captured by the traditional volunteering question, but are considered to be services to communities and individuals.

"Looking at informal volunteering behaviors is important and include activities like organizing neighborhood clean-up projects, mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, a letter writing campaign to troops in Iraq, or any other positive social behaviors that result in the betterment of ones' community," Jennie Chin Hansen, AARP Board of Directors.

Overall key findings include:

  • Over eight in ten Americans 45 and older say they are involved in helping others without pay at some level – through an organization or on their own - based on the expanded assessment.
  • Thirty percent said that since 9/11, they felt a stronger need to volunteer.
  • Most volunteering is sporadic, rather than regular.
  • Elderly people (56%), children (47%), and neighborhoods (42%) attract the most volunteer interest.
  • The motivations to volunteer start with altruism, including a sense of responsibility to others, and a desire to make a difference. Also, Americans 45 and older are motivated by religious beliefs, and by the potential for some type of personal satisfaction or need.
  • When questions measuring giving were expanded to include non-organizational donations such as money given to family and non-family individuals in need, almost nine in ten have made a donation in the past year. Giving follows similar patterns to volunteering, with fully 87% saying they have given to one effort or another in the last year.

This study was designed to uncover the similarities and the differences among the 45+ population. The transformation of volunteering and giving is being driven by the greatest demographic shift in our nation's history. In 2000, there were 34.7 million individuals, nearly 12%, that were 65+ and by the year 2011, when the first boomers turn 65, that number rises to 40 million. By 2030, one in every five Americans will be over the age of 65 (U. S. Census, 2000). Unquestionably this aging of the population will have a tremendous impact on American life including volunteering and giving.

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