Due to the aging of the population worldwide, interest in encouraging older adults to be connected with their communities is growing. Volunteerism is one way to enhance interest and involvement in community activities. The concept of community solidarity, defined as the degree of interest in and perceived responsibility for community (Fessler, 1952), may be important in predicting individuals' attachment to and participation in community activities. This study examined levels and patterns of community solidarity and their relationships to willingness to volunteer among older Korean adults.
The data were derived from a larger needs assessment of a population-based sample of 1,164 community-dwelling adults collected through a community center in a major Korean metropolitan area. The purpose of the original study was to address community needs and to assess current/desired community welfare conditions perceived by residents. A quota sampling by gender, age (>20), and four residency areas (n=964) as well as a random sampling of low-income, disabled, and foreign residents (n=200) were used. Secondary analysis of a sample of 392 older adults (over 50) was conducted for this study. Community solidarity was measured by 24 items of the Community Solidarity Index(CSI) (Fessler, 1952). Willingness to volunteer was measured by a single item, “Would you like to participate in volunteer activities in your community?”.
The average age of respondents was 64 and had lived in their communities for an average of 18 years. A majority were women (56%), married (64%), reported religious affiliation (64%), and had less than a high school education (72%). About 12% of the sample was low income and 13% were currently volunteering. Results from bivariate analyses revealed that a higher perceived level of community solidarity was significantly associated with the presence of religion (t = -4.17, p < .01), higher socio-economic status (t = -2.18, p < .05), and current volunteer participation (t = -3.87, p < .01). In addition, religiousness (t = -3.32, p < .01) and being married (t=-3.31, p<.01) were linked to greater level of willingness to volunteer in their community. Results from multiple linear regression analysis indicate that a higher level of community solidarity was associated with greater willingness to volunteer in the community controlling for individual characteristics (ß = .19; t = 3.05; p < .01).
Conclusions and Implications
Findings suggest that older adults who have interest in and sense of responsibility for their community, have a greater propensity to volunteer. Also, community solidarity and willingness to volunteer varied by certain individual characteristics, such as being married and belonging to an organized religion. This study provided insight into factors that are important to address in the development of strategies to involve seniors in volunteer activities. Community centers and other social service/health agencies could engage in outreach efforts in religious communities and offer opportunities that may increase the involvement of older adults in various community activities. Social workers can play a pivotal role in this endeavor to help older adults stay connected to the community as they age.