Title

Volunteering: What it means for rural African-American women

Location

Merritt Room

Start Time

2-10-2015 3:00 PM

End Time

2-10-2015 4:30 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Background and purpose: Current research in the United States suggests that people over age 65 are more likely to volunteer on a given day than those in any other age group (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). At a time when social services are being cut, complex social issues emanating from the growing disparities in society leave many communities underserved. Older adult volunteers often fill these service gaps.Research has shown that older adults who volunteer experienced an increased sense of purpose, increased personal competence, and increased life satisfaction (Van Willigan, 2000). Other studies have found that people who are Caucasian, married, educated, and of a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to volunteer(Tang, Morrow-Howell, & Hong, 2009).

There is a dearth in the literature on studies that examine the motivations for volunteering in different racial and/or ethnic groups, in rural and or urban low-income areas. The purpose of this study was to understand the motivations for volunteering in older African American women in a impoverished, rural and racially segregated community.

Methods: The research questions for this study were: What motivates older adults in a rural community to volunteer? What are the perceived benefits of volunteering? This study used a mixed-methods approach, as it was imperative to garner nuanced contextual understandings of the powerful sociocultural influences that had shaped the lives of the study participants. The quantitative data was gathered with the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI), an instrument that has been used widely and has published psychometrics (Clary, et. al., 1998). The qualitative data was obtained by conducting a focus group and one-on-one interviewing of six community elders. The qualitative analysis was performed using the Framework Analysis method that involved familiarization; identification of a thematic framework; indexing; charting; and mapping and interpretation. Peer checking and data triangulation established trustworthiness and rigor.

Results: Quantitative results show that the participants were motivated to volunteer by their values, desire for a greater understanding of their community issues, and for enhancing social relationships. Additionally, with increasing age, a desire for enhanced psychological well-being was an important motivator. Satisfaction was ranked high and was unanimous. Qualitative results revealed themes relating to both the individuals and the community. Overarching themes pertaining to individuals that emerged were related to individual beliefs, values, and benefits of volunteering. Themes that emerged about the community had a temporal aspect; inescapable racial inequality that spans the past and present, the theme of loss of community illustrating the present situation, and the theme of rebuilding community spanning the present and the future. The benefits of volunteering extended from increased energy and alertness; improved sense of life balance and fulfillment, to enhanced life purpose and sense of belonging.

Conclusion: These results provide insights into the influences of historical events and prevailing social attitudes in shaping the identities and occupational choices of participants. The occupation of volunteering gave a profound sense of purpose and meaning to these women, and for many defined their being. Understanding the motivations, health benefits and the meaning derived from volunteering occupation can be the basis for promoting healthy aging in communities, improve the health and well-being of older adults and the communities.

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013). American Time Use Survey. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/volunteer.htm

Clary E.G., Synder, M., Ridge R.D., Copeland, J., Stukas A.A., Haugen, J., & Miene, P. (1998). Understanding and Assessing the Motivations of Volunteers: A Functional Approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,74, (6): 1516-1530.

Ritchie, J., & Spencer, L. (2004). In A. Bryman, & R.G. Burgess (Eds.). Analyzing qualitative data (pp. 172-194). London: Routledge.

Tang, F., Morrow-Howell, N., & Hong, S. (2009). Institutional facilitation in sustained volunteering among older adult volunteers. Social Work Research, 33(3): 172-182.

Van Willigen, M. (2000). Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, 55 (5): S308-S318.

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Oct 2nd, 3:00 PM Oct 2nd, 4:30 PM

Volunteering: What it means for rural African-American women

Merritt Room

Background and purpose: Current research in the United States suggests that people over age 65 are more likely to volunteer on a given day than those in any other age group (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). At a time when social services are being cut, complex social issues emanating from the growing disparities in society leave many communities underserved. Older adult volunteers often fill these service gaps.Research has shown that older adults who volunteer experienced an increased sense of purpose, increased personal competence, and increased life satisfaction (Van Willigan, 2000). Other studies have found that people who are Caucasian, married, educated, and of a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to volunteer(Tang, Morrow-Howell, & Hong, 2009).

There is a dearth in the literature on studies that examine the motivations for volunteering in different racial and/or ethnic groups, in rural and or urban low-income areas. The purpose of this study was to understand the motivations for volunteering in older African American women in a impoverished, rural and racially segregated community.

Methods: The research questions for this study were: What motivates older adults in a rural community to volunteer? What are the perceived benefits of volunteering? This study used a mixed-methods approach, as it was imperative to garner nuanced contextual understandings of the powerful sociocultural influences that had shaped the lives of the study participants. The quantitative data was gathered with the Volunteer Functions Inventory (VFI), an instrument that has been used widely and has published psychometrics (Clary, et. al., 1998). The qualitative data was obtained by conducting a focus group and one-on-one interviewing of six community elders. The qualitative analysis was performed using the Framework Analysis method that involved familiarization; identification of a thematic framework; indexing; charting; and mapping and interpretation. Peer checking and data triangulation established trustworthiness and rigor.

Results: Quantitative results show that the participants were motivated to volunteer by their values, desire for a greater understanding of their community issues, and for enhancing social relationships. Additionally, with increasing age, a desire for enhanced psychological well-being was an important motivator. Satisfaction was ranked high and was unanimous. Qualitative results revealed themes relating to both the individuals and the community. Overarching themes pertaining to individuals that emerged were related to individual beliefs, values, and benefits of volunteering. Themes that emerged about the community had a temporal aspect; inescapable racial inequality that spans the past and present, the theme of loss of community illustrating the present situation, and the theme of rebuilding community spanning the present and the future. The benefits of volunteering extended from increased energy and alertness; improved sense of life balance and fulfillment, to enhanced life purpose and sense of belonging.

Conclusion: These results provide insights into the influences of historical events and prevailing social attitudes in shaping the identities and occupational choices of participants. The occupation of volunteering gave a profound sense of purpose and meaning to these women, and for many defined their being. Understanding the motivations, health benefits and the meaning derived from volunteering occupation can be the basis for promoting healthy aging in communities, improve the health and well-being of older adults and the communities.