Report of the National Seniors Council on Volunteering Among Seniors and Positive and Active Aging

Why Positive and Active Aging and Volunteering Among Seniors are Priorities

There is significant interest within the federal government on how to support positive and active aging and volunteering among seniors. The Special Senate Committee on Aging, appointed "to examine and report upon the implications of an aging society in Canada," presented its final report, Canada's Aging Population: Seizing the Opportunity, on April 21, 2009. The report highlighted the need for the federal government to promote active and healthy aging and support for the volunteer sector.

The Government of Canada, in its response to the Special Senate Committee's report, indicated it "has long recognized the value of staying healthy, active and socially engaged throughout life and has worked collaboratively with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to promote this idea to Canadians of all ages." It also noted the important role volunteering plays for seniors, as both recipients and providers of volunteer services. In its response, the Government of Canada stated that, in addition to the initiatives it is currently supporting on positive and active aging and volunteering, it remains committed to advancing these priorities. Indeed, it tasked the National Seniors Council to study these issues and provide suggestions for action.

The priority given to these two areas is particularly timely given our aging population. Canadians are enjoying, and will continue to enjoy, more years of good health and longer periods of retirement. Seniors also continue to be active, fulfilling many diverse roles in the community, as family members, caregivers, volunteers, neighbours, workers and consumers. It is becoming increasingly important to ensure that seniors are seen, and see themselves, as valued and active members of their communities. Moreover, seniors require programs and services to support positive and active aging and facilitate a better quality of life.

Involvement in volunteer activities is one way in which seniors can age positively and actively. There are many benefits to volunteering for seniors and some researchers suggest that volunteering is linked with greater physical and psychological well-being.Footnote 2 

Volunteers also make enormous contributions to the well-being of Canadian society and play a key role in supporting the not-for-profit sector. Volunteers tutor children, mentor newcomers to Canada, serve in shelters and food banks, provide significant support to the not-for-profit sector and provide care to other seniors. The not-for-profit sector (hospitals, schools, community centres, etc.) relies heavily on volunteers with over half of not-for-profit organizations depending solely on volunteers for their operations.Footnote 3  Volunteering is also an important aspect of the Canadian economy, with the value of volunteer work in Canada estimated to be greater than $14 billion annually.Footnote 4 

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