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Breaking down barriers to volunteering

A young woman helps an older woman out of a car

Making the time

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Age UK, discusses how volunteering opportunities can be open to everyone, and why giving time to help makes such a big difference.


Giving your time to support others is an act of kindness and generosity that manages to be simultaneously rewarding and productive to our wider society.

We are incredibly fortunate that so many people in this country give their time for free, sometimes informally – as we saw especially during COVID – sometimes more formally. At Age UK, volunteering provides a dynamic that enriches everyone involved.

And yet, quite often, we make the whole thing difficult, or create imaginary barriers to volunteering. Many people think “I couldn’t possibly do this, I don’t have the time, or the skills. It’s our job, then, to break down those barriers and make volunteering as easy as possible.

For that reason, for the second year, we are proud to be a part of The Big Help Out, which allows hundreds of charities get together to put on taster sessions, local participation activities and much more to encourage more of us to volunteer.

You can access Age UK ‘Meet and Greet days on The Big Help Out platform, where we have arranged the following:

  • The Age UK retail team is offering ‘Meet and Greet days on 5 June at 264 charity shops, giving those interested in volunteering the chance to learn about the many opportunities available.
  • The Age UK Telephone Friendship Service will hold an online ‘Meet and Greet session on 7 June, to provide information about the service and how volunteers benefit the service and the lives of the older people.
  • Age UK's Silver Line Helpline team will hold an online ‘Meet and Greet’ session on 5 June, offering information about their services and volunteer roles.

The everyday help out

The Big Help Out is an important way of shining a light on volunteering, but our volunteers provide such important support to older people every day of the year.

If you’ve thought about volunteering but never been sure what it’s about, there are so many ways your efforts could support Age UK’s vital work. With our telephone friendship service, it all starts with giving just half an hour a week. We match volunteers with older people who would love a conversation on a regular basis – a process that's so simple yet rewarding for everyone involved. If we had more volunteers, we could support so many more older people.

You can also volunteer at a community level with our local Age UKs. Whether through befriending services, being a volunteer handyperson or becoming a local Trustee, there are plenty of opportunities available – and you can even get involved in our Age UK shops, who are always looking for more volunteers to cover small shifts or give time multiple days a week.

Or if it's campaigning you're into, consider joining our huge base of volunteer campaigners. With a general election on the horizon, raising the profile of older people's voices will only become more important.

Our vital volunteers

We love the older people who volunteer for us and make such a huge contribution. People like Alan, who, incredibly, has been volunteering for 60 years. “It's very special to see people benefiting from the work done by the organisations I've worked with,” Alan told us when we visited Age UK North Tyneside, where here's been volunteering for the past 13 years. “It gives me a focus on life, setting my mind each day on doing what I can, the best I can.”

There are many ways to get involved as a volunteer, and increasingly employers are giving staff time off for volunteering and encouraging staff to volunteer. Huge thanks to our corporate supporters like Dunelm, who have taken time out of their busy working days to support Age UK through volunteering, from signing up to make a weekly phone call to an older person, to helping their local Age UK put on an Easter bonnet-making class.

Finally, the biggest thanks goes to our 167,000 volunteers across the UK who do phenomenal work in supporting older people, and hopefully get something back in return!

Find the right volunteering opportunity for you

Whatever your commitments, interests and skills, there's a range of ways you can volunteer to support older people.

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Last updated: May 29 2024

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