The Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing today publishes ‘Age of Opportunity’, a new study exploring the risks and opportunities facing the voluntary sector as a result of the UK’s ageing population.

Tens of thousands more baby boomers are reaching retirement age every year, and by 2020 volunteering by people over 65 will reach a value of more than £15bn a year to UK charities. The most skilled, experienced and demanding cohort of older people are retiring in droves, and Age of Opportunity argues that charities urgently need to adapt to our ageing population to exploit this opportunity if they are to thrive in the future.

Age of Opportunity maps a set of future scenarios across a number of key themes, describing how charities might thrive or struggle in the future, depending on the choices they make now. The paper highlights key statistics on the voluntary sector and the ageing population, including:

  • In 2010, the working hours given by older volunteers to UK charities was equivalent to £10bn. This will grow to over £15bn by 2020, adding a further £5bn to the value of volunteers over 65s. This is equivalent to a century of Red Nose Days–an event which takes two years to plan and thousands of people to make happen.
  • In 2012, the number of people in the UK aged over 100 would only have filled 1/7 of Wembley Stadium. By 2033, they will fill Wembley Stadium almost to capacity.
  • By 2035, life expectancy for men will reach nearly 84, and 87 for women.

Lynne Berry OBE, Chair of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing, said:

Our society will change dramatically in the next 20 years. This leaves the voluntary sector at a crossroads but the rewards, if they look ahead and plan now, are substantial.

“People retiring today are more skilled and more savvy than any generation before them, and will bring years of experience and expertise to charities. This is the generation which brought us sweeping changes through the gay rights movement and environmental campaigning, and they can share their own skills while picking up new ones from younger colleagues in return. They are now ready for new commitments, using their skills in their various communities. This is a recipe for helping the sector stay resilient and becoming more creative, more connected long into the future. An ageing population can bring massive benefits to charities provided preparations are made now.

“But older people are also under increasing pressure. After years of hard work, many feel they are now expected to help bring up their grandkids and support local causes, even while finding time for themselves. Charities will need to make an outstanding effort to attract and keep people who are likely to feel so stretched

“Young people’s organisations are not immune from the changes to an ageing society: they want to create new organisations , explore new forms of governance and develop innovative solutions to the challenges they see around them, This will involved drawing on the skills and resources of older people and developing new expertise of their own. Our challenge is to make this ageing society work for all ages”.

Age of Opportunity is being launched at an event at the Cripplegate Foundation on 1st April, where speakers include Commission Chair Lynne Berry, Dan Corry of NPC and Chris Sherwood of Relate. This is followed by a private dinner in parliament on 2nd April, attended by Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP and key figures working on charities and the ageing population.

The Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing was set up by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) in partnership with the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK). NPC and ILC-UK provide secretariat support to the Commission. The Commission has been funded in its first year by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, and by Prudential.

Visit the Commission website at


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