Volunteering Dynamics and Life Satisfaction: Self-Perceptions of Aging as a Buffer.

TitleVolunteering Dynamics and Life Satisfaction: Self-Perceptions of Aging as a Buffer.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsHuo, M, Kim, K
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology: Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
Keywordsage stereotype, cessation, Subjective well-being, volunteer

OBJECTIVES: Research has extensively documented the concurrent benefits of being a volunteer (versus a non-volunteer), but little is known about older adults who once served as a volunteer but then stopped at some point in their lives (i.e., former volunteers). The current study tracked changes in older adults' overall life satisfaction and compared these changes among former volunteers, continuous volunteers, and continuous non-volunteers. We also examined whether self-perceptions of aging may serve as a long-term psychological buffer and protect former volunteers' life satisfaction after they quit volunteering.

METHOD: Data were from the Health and Retirement Study (2006-2016). A pooled sample of participants age 50+ (N = 10,441) indicated volunteer behaviors every other year, and we identified volunteering dynamics based on their volunteering history across 4 waves (8 years). Participants reported on self-perceptions of aging and life satisfaction in the Leave Behind Questionnaire once every 4 years.

RESULTS: Continuous volunteers reported greater subsequent life satisfaction than former volunteers and continuous non-volunteers 4 years later, when we adjusted for their baseline life satisfaction. Yet, the difference between continuous volunteers and former volunteers was absent among participants with more positive self-perceptions of aging.

DISCUSSION: This study reveals a potential discontinuity in the benefits of volunteering as older adults transition out of their volunteer activities. Findings, however, also reveal individual differences by self-perceptions of aging, offering suggestive evidence that may refine interventions to prolong the benefits of volunteering.

Citation Key11682
PubMed ID34115861