Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell welcomed research showing that volunteering has real benefits for health and wellbeing.
The Ministers were speaking at Volunteer Now's launch in Parliament Buildings of a research study and booklet highlighting the many benefits experienced by volunteers aged 50 plus.
Commenting on the research undertaken by the University of Ulster in partnership with Volunteer NOW's Unlocking Potential Project, Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann said: "We are fortunate more people are now living longer and, by sharing experience and skills across all walks of life, we ensure our strong sense of community which has sustained us in the past will continue to thrive. Our greatest strength will always be the potential of our people and our community to make a real difference.
"When you volunteer to help others you have an increased sense of self-worth, feel needed, have a stronger will to live, and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. The volunteers present have proven they have a natural sense of community and an instinct to look out for others, qualities which are a really important part of our fabric. I thank all volunteers for the many hours you dedicate to helping your fellow citizens and the enormous contribution you are making to a fairer and more inclusive society.
"I commend everyone who participated in this study as, without your input and commitment, the study would never have been completed. Genuine partnership and collaboration is one of the benefits of volunteering. Volunteers help to build a stronger community and do their bit so people of all ages and abilities get the most out of life."
The Unlocking Potential Project booklet "One Good Reason Campaign" provides learning from the project including market research, health research findings as well as engagement and recruitment techniques used to recruit older volunteers. It also covers the impact of older volunteers on local organisations and signposting to additional resources.
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell said: "I am very pleased to launch this booklet showcasing just some of the work undertaken by the Unlocking Potential Project and provides links to resources that will support people and organisations in the future.
"Government, the private sector and the voluntary and community sector all have a role to play in supporting the growth of volunteering. Older people are particularly well placed to volunteer and share their wealth of experience and expertise. Volunteering by older people benefits everyone and so we must do everything we can to support and encourage it.
"Volunteer NOW continue to inform and encourage more people to consider volunteering. I commend them for recognising the contribution volunteers make, providing access to opportunities and encouraging people to volunteer. I thank all existing volunteers and encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to give it a go."