In the blog series ‘apaaehtoisuus on timanttista toimintaa (‘Volunteering is Brilliant Activity’), we publish articles or videos on volunteering by students who study volunteer leadership at HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.
There are several organisations for retired persons in Finland which have their own local active volunteers and communities. In addition to these organisations, older volunteers can be found on the lists of municipalities, churches, and social and health organisations as well as other organisations.
In the events and voluntary activity of small communities, it is a familiar sight to see older people volunteering more than working-age adults. They are dear friends, reliable accompanying persons on hospital trips, and they create extravagant cakes for fairs. They are there even before the event starts making coffee, setting up bingo prizes in regular rows, and they have all the time to chat about the differences in taste of the traditional Finnish coffee brands, Juhla Mokka and Kulta Katriina.
A working-age mother or father juggling with kids, work and other activities doesn’t have time for that, or do they? We, who are adventuring between work and piles of laundry, are eager to tell how much we would like to participate in volunteering but that we don’t have time for it. It would be lovely and important, for example, to accompany an older neighbour during outdoor activities. But at what time? Likewise, it is easy to think that older people participate actively in organisations because they have all the time in the world on their hands.
According to a research carried out by the Age institute, looking after their own well-being motivates older people to volunteer. Action is motivated by the promotion and maintenance of one’s ability to function and be active. Moreover, being useful also mobilises older people (Jere Rajaniemi 2/2009). In various events and volunteering, older people have the opportunity to leave four walls, meet friends, and maintain their own physical health and social contacts. By getting involved in volunteering, an older person might even live a busier life than a working-age person. Recently, I met a 65-year-old widow who volunteers in her own municipality, in the food aid of the church and as an activist in three different social and health associations. The lady in question told us that she is spending maybe the busiest but also the most interesting time of her life.
Therefore, it seems that in today’s society, we all are considerably busy and don’t have enough time, but we see it in different ways.
Text: Hanna-Mari Hiltunen
The author is currently studying volunteer leadership at HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.
Jere Rajaniemi: Mielekkäästi vapaaehtoistoiminnassa – Tuloksia kyselystä järjestöjen ikääntyneille jäsenille. Reports 2/2009. Helsinki: Age Institute.
Translator: Kati Merikoski