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Volunteering by over 65s is valued at £48bn a year. That’s 2% of UK GDP

A new study commissioned by the team here at Retirement Villages Group (“RVG”) in partnership with CEBR today reveals that the total value of unpaid services provided by retirees in the UK is a staggering £48bn every year1 - the equivalent of 2% of 2021 UK GDP. The findings highlight the critical but often overlooked role people aged over 65 have in our society and economy. 

Bespoke economic modelling by the Centre of Economic and Business Research (“Cebr”) calculated the total time spent by retired over 65s engaging in unpaid services, multiplied by the average wage as per the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) for a comparable, paid role, to calculate the economy-wide impact. These services include formal volunteers (unpaid help through clubs and organisations), informal volunteers (unpaid help to individuals), informal adult carers (unpaid help to friends or family members), and local authority councillors.

Finding purpose through volunteering

RVG’s study, which coincides with Volunteers’ Week celebrating the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering, found that 8.6 million retired over-65s engaged in some kind of formal or informal volunteering in 2020/21, which equates to an economic value of £32.7bn.

RVG also recently commissioned the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) to provide insight into the levers that impact wellbeing, quality of life and healthy longevity amongst older adults. The work highlighted that retired people over 65 are motivated to volunteer for social interaction and to give them a sense of purpose once they leave the working world, recognising the importance of engaging actively in society for the benefit of their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Caring for the nation

Close to one million retired people over 65 are acting as informal carers to loved ones, whether looking after grandchildren or caring for relatives, which equates to an economic value of £15.3bn.

Bridging the community and the council

Another way retirees over 65 ‘give back’ is through taking on positions in local councils. A third (37%) of all local authority councillors in England are aged over 65, equating to an economic value of £129million.

Will Bax, CEO, comments,

“It’s time to shine a light on the massive contribution made by our elders and change the misplaced public narrative from care and dependency to a more accurate reflection that recognises their wisdom, experience, and social contribution. This research highlights the importance of older people to the UK economy. But it’s only half the story, our elders are an army of talent, who are often the glue of society using their time, post retirement, to serve their communities. I believe we can do more to harness this amazing cohort, enhancing purpose and wellbeing in later life and in so doing supporting healthy longevity. This is at the heart of what we do at Retirement Villages Group. For the benefit of our residents but also for the benefit of the wider communities we serve.”

Pushpin Singh, Economist at CEBR said:

In the public perception, retired people are often portrayed as adding only limited value to our economy. This picture is biased and neglects the fact that retired people engage in a range of socially and economically valuable activities. However, these activities are often unpaid or otherwise informal, and therefore do not enter the calculations for economic output. The aim of this study is therefore to quantify the contribution of retired people to society. Our analysis shows that activities undergone by over 65s do indeed have significant weight to them, dispelling conventional beliefs while reinforcing the invaluable part over 65s play in building the communities we see today.
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