Changes in older people's experiences of providing care and of volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic

Georgia Chatzi, Giorgio Di Gessa, James Nazroo

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Engagement in socially productive activities, such as care provision and voluntary work, make important contributions to society, and may have been especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. They have also been associated with better health, well-being, and longer survival for older people. The ELSA COVID-19 Substudy provided data to allow for an exploration of how changes in caring and volunteering may have occurred during the pandemic, and to examine this in relation to factors such as sex, age, employment status, wealth, COVID-19 vulnerability and symptoms, and pre-pandemic experiences of health.
Overall, there have been important changes in both the level of care provided by older people and the extent of their involvement in volunteering, with, on average, care provision more likely to have increased or stayed the same (65% of older carers reported this), and volunteering more likely to have decreased or stopped (61% of older volunteers reported this). However, a large number
of older people took on new caring roles for someone outside the household (12%) and 4% of older people registered to volunteer as part of the NHS scheme. Both economic characteristics (such as paid employment and wealth) and health-related characteristics (such as being vulnerable, self-isolating, having experienced COVID-19 symptoms, and reporting functional limitations) were related to changes the frequency of caring and voluntary work.
It is yet unclear how these changes in caring and volunteering have influenced older people’s health and well-being during the coronavirus outbreak.

Investigating the impact of the pandemic on broader health and well-being out- comes for older people, the role of changes in care provision and volunteering in this, and how we might respond to this, is a crucial next step.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationELSA COVID-19 Substudy
PublisherEnglish Longitudinal Study of Ageing Rapid Reports
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute


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