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Consumption and Age - Volunteer Service: Time Use And Consumption

aging health services fund survey

Consumption may also take the form of time used for services that provide for well-being and personal satisfaction. Time-use studies are based on the premise that time outside of work can be used either to earn more money to purchase goods or for volunteer services that provide services to others. Volunteering can be done outside of the home (e.g., Red Cross, church). Caregiving is another example of using time to provide services.

Volunteer service by older persons is a valuable resource. Data from the 1991 Commonwealth Fund Productive Aging Survey (see Caro and Bass, 1995) showed that about one-quarter of persons over 55 were currently doing volunteer work. Volunteering was found to be more common among women, those with education beyond high school, those with professional or technical skills, those in good health, and those active in religion. The proportion of volunteers was highest for older adults age 55 to 59 among whom 31 percent were volunteers. Interestingly, almost one-tenth (9.4 percent) of persons age 85 and over were volunteers, according to the survey.

When the characteristics related to volunteer assignments were analyzed, the following associations were observed by Caro and Bass: Younger respondents were more likely to be engaged in fund-raising. Older respondents were more likely to drive a vehicle. Women were more likely than men to work in an office. Higher-income people were more likely to serve on a board or a committee. Higher levels of education were associated with service on a board or committee, office work, and fund-raising. Better health was associated with direct-service assignments.

Further analysis of the 1991 Commonwealth Fund Productive Aging Survey revealed that those active in religious organizations were more often female, younger, well-educated, and active in religion than the sample as a whole. Older people were more likely to volunteer for a health organization or a senior citizen center. Those with higher levels of education were more likely to volunteer for religious and health organizations, and being in good health was linked to volunteering in the health sector.

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