Communication, Volunteering, and Aging: A Research Agenda

Jessica Gasiorek, Howard Giles


Americans’ annual volunteer service totals over 8 billion hours and is estimated to be worth more than 100 billion dollars. Older adults perform much of this work, and being a volunteer has been identified as a predictor of successful aging. Despite its prevalence and importance in this demographic group, volunteering remains understudied in the field of communication. This theoretical article integrates work from various disciplines to examine the topics of volunteering and successful aging through a communication lens. After defining volunteering, we systematically outline how communication can inform the study of volunteering. We then briefly highlight potential determinants and motivations for older adults’ volunteering and examine the link between volunteering and successful aging, arguing that many of the documented benefits of volunteering may in fact result from the communicative opportunities it affords. Finally, we outline an agenda for future research on communication, successful aging, and volunteering.

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