Over the past decades, the number of years an average worker may expect to live after retirement has gone up, and s/he is expected to live longer in better health conditions. This increase has been attributable both to a decrease in the average retirement age and an increase in life expectancy at older ages. This phenomenon of the increase in active life expectancy has served as an inspiration in developing interests in retirees' activity participation, especially in volunteer work. This study explores the following in light of other activities in retirement: (1) the prevalence of volunteer work participation in retirement; and (2) continuity and change in volunteer work participation into retirement. It also examines influential factors for: (1) discontinuing volunteer work after retirement; and (2) engaging in volunteer work in retirement.
This study uses the national longitudinal panel data from four waves of the Americans' Changing Lives (ACL) study. A sample of 263 respondents who retired during the course of the ACL study at the age of 50 or older is identified and divided into three retirement cohorts based on the retirement year. The sample consists of retirees with one pre-retirement and (at least one) repeated post-retirement measurements regarding their volunteer work participation. Two types of volunteer work are analyzed: “formal” volunteer work through agencies and “informal” volunteer work through helping neighbors or friends. The analyses applied include descriptive statistics, chi-squared tests, logistic regression and multilevel logistic regression.
The findings indicate that participation in informal volunteer work is most prevalent throughout all measurement points for all retirement cohorts when compared to participation in other activities. The participation trends for formal and informal volunteer work over time vary by retirement cohort. Over 80% of the retirees have continued participating in informal volunteer work into retirement, while half of the retirees have discontinued participating in formal volunteer work. According to the logistic regression results, a relocation of residence and low levels of religious participation are common variables significantly associated with the greater odds of discontinuing in both formal and informal volunteer work. Findings from the multilevel logistic regression analyses with repeated post-retirement measurements show that pre-retirement participation is a significant factor for increasing the odds of post-retirement participation for both types of volunteer work.
Based on the above findings, implications for programs and services for macro social work practice are discussed, including the timing of an “intervention” for recruiting retired formal volunteers.