The aging face of volunteerism
February 25, 2014
By Chad Ingram
Minden’s service clubs are pillars of the community, raising money for charitable causes and local infrastructure projects, from playgrounds to bandshells.
Along with benevolence and generosity, these groups have something else in common.
Their memberships are aging. And new, younger volunteers are hard to come by.
The Rotary Club of Minden has 21 members and president Jim Fox estimates the average age of its members well into the 50s. Fox said the club’s youngest members are probably in their mid-40s.
What about 20- and 30-somethings? Where are the folks in this age bracket?
“It’s a difficult world today to make a living,” Fox said. “I think young people are totally involved in their career, their occupation.”
Weekly meetings are a requirement of the club and Fox noted that people with young families often have schedules that are already quite full.
“We gave more in terms of money than volunteering,” he said, referring to his younger days. “You certainly have more time to donate when you’re retired.”
Over at the Lions Club, president Al Manning thought a few of the 18 members might be in their 20s or 30s.
“Most are 40s and upward,” he said. “If you have a family, both of you have to work now to keep things going.”
Eighteen members is up from a few years ago.
Phyllis Sutherland is president of the 13-member Minden Lioness Club.
“We used to have up to 20 at one time,” she said. “We got down to about six.”
The age of members of the Lioness Club ranges from 50 to 78, Sutherland said, with herself near the high end.
“Everyone’s having a family,” she said. “They haven’t got time.”
While local service clubs are lacking young people, so is the community as a whole, Sutherland noted.
“There’s nothing to keep them here,” she said.
Lion Clubs International has Leo clubs aimed at young people and while once more common, they have become rare.
The Minden Kin Club has a dozen members, with president Tom Prentice pegging the average age at 50.
Like his counterparts, Prentice chalked a dearth of younger members up to the time pressures of raising a family.
“You take hockey for instance,” he said. “They don’t have any time.”
At one time, the club had as many as 42 members. Prentice said he’d like to see numbers grow, but added that the Kin cCub, which hosts annual ice races and ATV mud bogs in Minden, requires more physical labour than most other clubs.
Many former Kin clubs in the area have closed up shop, including clubs in Bobcaygeon and Bancroft.
According to Statistics Canada, younger Canadians are actually more likely to volunteer.
“However, the youth volunteer rate may be influenced by the requirement in some school districts to perform community service in order to graduate from high school,” the agency’s website reads.
According to Statistics Canada, 58 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 volunteer; 46 per cent aged 25 to 34; and 54 per cent of people aged 35 to 44.
Forty-one per cent of Canadians aged 55 to 64 and 36 per cent of seniors volunteer.
While younger people may be more likely to volunteer, it’s the older population who put in the most hours.
According to the 2010 census, those in the 15 to 24 age category volunteered an average of 130 hours a year, that figure jumping to 223 for senior citizens.
The rate of volunteering also generally rises with education and income.
In 2010, 47 per cent of Canadians volunteered their time to charitable and non-profit organizations.