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Pandemic policy making: the health and wellbeing effects of the cessation of volunteering on older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jurgen Grotz (Institute for Volunteering Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)
Sally Dyson (Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Norwich, UK)
Linda Birt (School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 26 November 2020

Issue publication date: 12 December 2020




This policy-orientated commentary aims to provide a perspective on the effects of policy changes designed to reduce the risk of infection as a result of COVID-19. The example of the abrupt cessation of volunteering activities is used to consider the policy and practice implications that need to be acknowledged in new public service research to deal with the on-going implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and for future preparedness.


The paper will provide a critical challenge to English pandemic health policy making, in particular, the national instruction “to stop non-essential contact with others” without a strategy on how to remedy the serious side effects of this instruction, in particular on older adults.


The abrupt cessation of volunteering activities of and for older people because of the COVID-19 pandemic is highly likely to have negative health and wellbeing effects on older adults with long-term and far-reaching policy implications.


The paper combines existing knowledge volunteering of and for older adults with early pandemic practice evidence to situate an emerging health and wellbeing crisis for older adults. It emphasises the importance of immediate further detailed research to provide evidence for policy and practice following the lifting of COVID-19 related restrictions and in preparation for future crises.



The authors thank the volunteers and those who involve volunteers whose experience and insights have helped shape our thinking on this important topic.Conflicts of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.Funding: Jurgen Grotz and Linda Birt’s involvement was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (ARC EoE) programme.Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the NIHR, NHS or Department of Health and Social Care.Data availability statement: The materials that support the findings of this study are publicly available. We have included citations in the reference section.


Grotz, J., Dyson, S. and Birt, L. (2020), "Pandemic policy making: the health and wellbeing effects of the cessation of volunteering on older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 261-269.



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