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Elderly Irish are now the backbone of volunteering

Elderly volunteers

MILLIONS of older people in Britain are giving up their time to volunteer in local charities, one of Britain’s largest volunteer organisations has said.

Irish charities across the country are among those benefitting from the trend, with a number confirming that older Irish volunteers form the backbone of their organisations.

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More than two-in-five of Britain’s 10million over 60s do voluntary work, while one-in-five signs up to work at more than one charity, according to a survey published by the Royal Voluntary Service this week.

“Our volunteers do a splendid job and we wouldn’t be able to help people without them,” said Marian Begley, co-chair of the Irish Tuesday Club, Liverpool.

The club, which brings together up to 80 isolated Irish people in the Merseyside area every week, is run by a nine-strong committee that includes eight volunteers over 60.

“To run any kind of club you have to have a full committee. Our committee members do a huge amount,” added Ms Begley, who is 59 and retired on medical grounds. “We sell the raffle tickets, the bingo tickets, make tea and sandwiches.”

Tipperary man John Joseph McCarthy, the club’s chairman, told The Irish Post he gives up 20 hours a  week to do tasks ranging from organising the club’s food to raising the money that keeps it going.

“I am retired a long time and this is something I like doing because people get something out of it,” the 75-year-old said. “A lot of our members are widows who live alone, for some it is their only outing in the week. But volunteering also keeps me going as well.”

The Royal Voluntary Service, which surveyed almost 700 over-60s for its poll, revealed that 83 per cent of volunteers said they give up their time because they believe charity work is important. Meanwhile, nearly half said they volunteer because it gives them a purpose.

Three per cent said they needed time away from their partner.

Denis Mulligan, 72, helps people in Luton to apply for an Irish passport by volunteering at the Luton Irish Centre once a week.

“I must have helped over 200 people with the forms since January,” the Cavan man said. “I volunteer because I enjoy doing it and I feel like it is important, right and proper that I do it.

“I will do it as long as I can for the Irish people in Luton. If you cannot do something for your own countrymen then it is a poor old day.”

Welcoming the survey’s findings, Royal Voluntary Service chief executive David McCullough said: “Many people may believe that retirement is an opportunity to sit back and relax, but on the contrary.

“Thousands of older people are committed to helping as many people as they can, making a huge difference to the lives of others in their communities.”

Although the Irish are only the fourth largest migrant population in England and Wales, the two countries are home to more over 60s born in Ireland than in any other foreign country.

More than half the Irish-born people living in England and Wales are over 60, compared with just five per cent of Poles, 13 per cent of Pakistanis and 25 per cent of Indians, while less than a quarter of the general population is retired.

The Royal Voluntary Service is welcoming nominations for its annual Diamond Champion award, which is given to an over 60 whose volunteering makes a difference in their community. To nominate someone you know, call 0845 608 0122. Nominations close on September 15.

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Niall O Sullivan
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Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter

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