Virtual Volunteering and Other Strategies that Increase Access to Volunteering Among Older Adults

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Crittenden, PhD, MSW

Our Team

Project Summary

Research literature underscores the positive health and well-being outcomes experienced by older adults who engage in volunteerism. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased health and isolation risks for older adults while also threatening the connection that older adults have with traditional on-site volunteer assignments. Virtual volunteerism (VV) offers a possible solution to this for older adults in the volunteer sector and more information is needed on its current and potential use. Drawing input from three national service programs, RSVP Senior Companion, and Foster Grandparents, this exploratory three-year study aims to describe the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of VV from both volunteer and host program/site perspectives. This will be done through:

  • Semi-structured interviews with national service program directors and thought leaders in the volunteerism/civic engagement.
  • Survey of RSVP program stations.
  • In the subsequent years of the project interviewing and surveying older adult volunteers from across all three AmeriCorps Seniors service programs to identify benefits that are most attractive to volunteers and would result in the highest level of recruitment and retention for future volunteer cohorts.

The purpose of this research is to create recommendations that programs can put into place to increase access to virtual volunteer opportunities across digital disparities. Virtual volunteering was used as a stop-gap measure for many organizations during the Covid-19 pandemic and this research looks at how we can take the relatively newfound platform for volunteering to the next level.

Virtual Volunteering Visual 

Virtual Volunteering Venn-Diagram 


Resource List

Study Description 

Study Posters/Presentations

Zooming for a Cause: A Conversation About Engaging Older Adults with Virtual Volunteering

Please click here to view or download this presentation. This presentation was given at AmeriCorps Seniors Convening in Washington D.C. on May 24, 2023. 

Poster Abstract: 

This presentation presents the aim of the research project to examine virtual volunteering (VV) among older adults and describe benefits, opportunities, and challenges from volunteer and host program perspectives. Year one of the environmental scan and station surveys are examined as well as year two and three plans. Emerging themes of benefits, challenges, and opportunities are presented.  

Organizational Considerations for Engaging Older Adults in Virtual Volunteerism

Please click here to view or download this presentation. This presentation was given at the ARNOVA conference in Orlando, Florida on November 17th, 2023. 

Poster Abstract: 

This presentation presents suggestions for organizational considerations for engaging older adults in virtual volunteerism. Suggestions are offered from the findings of Year One of the environmental scan and station surveys.

Virtual Volunteerism in a Post-Pandemic World: What Works? 

Please click here to view or download this presentation. This presentation was given at the 2024 American Society on Aging Conference in San Francisco, California on March 27th, 2024. 
Poster Abstract: 

Virtual volunteering provides an accessible option for older adult volunteerism and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for non-profits to incubate models of virtual volunteerism that serve the community and effectively engage older adults. This presentation will highlight findings from an ongoing study of virtual volunteerism among older adults and describe virtual volunteerism strategies that are most successful in engaging older volunteers, both during and post-COVID. Data presented is drawn from interviews with 30 key informants in technology and aging drawn from across the U.S.


This material is based upon work funded by the Office of Research and Evaluation at AmeriCorps under Grant No. 22REAME001 through the National Service and Civic Engagement research grant competition. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, AmeriCorps.


If you have questions about the project, please contact Jennifer Crittenden at