Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Program


Sandra S. Butler

Second Committee Member

Nancy Fishwick

Third Committee Member

Lenard Kaye

Additional Committee Members

Karen Kopera-Frye

Linda Silka


Volunteering among older adults has been associated with numerous benefits for older adults and their communities. As the U.S. population continues to age, new and continued opportunities for engagement emerge not just within the formal volunteering arena, but also within paid employment, caregiving, and informal volunteering. Grounded in role theory, this study examined the extent to which current volunteers experience role conflict and role enhancement between their volunteer role and other social roles that they occupy. Specifically, this study examined the following research questions: 1) Does role conflict predict satisfaction with, participation in, and/or intention to remain in the volunteer role?; and 2) What are the compensatory strategies used by older adults to navigate role conflict and what benefits do older adults accrue in their volunteer roles that could effectively counterbalance role conflict? A mixed methods survey was distributed to 6,796 older adult Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers nationally via mail and e-mail, with a total of 1,697 responding.

Results support both role strain and role enhancement perspectives. Role conflict, measured with a modified Work Family Conflict Scale (WAFCS), was found to be a predictor of volunteer satisfaction and associated with role load (# of roles held) and total role hours. While conflict was correlated with intent to remain in the volunteer role, it was not found to be a significant predictor of this outcome.

Qualitative themes documented support for the benefits of volunteering both to volunteers personally, as well as benefits that directly benefited paid employment, caregiving, and informal and non-RSVP volunteer roles. Role-related benefits identified included new skills and knowledge, new networks/connections, new social role opportunities, and respite. Indirect personal benefits of volunteering included socialization, personal growth, new perspective/awareness, positive emotional benefits, and physical and cognitive health improvements. Sources of conflict noted by volunteers included health and time-related barriers to volunteering. Strategies for reducing role conflict included seeking similarities or differences across roles and time management strategies. Limitations of the study included a relative lack of variation in role conflict within the sample. Funding for this study was provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Included in

Gerontology Commons