Productive Aging by Environmental Volunteerism: A Systematic Review

Po Wei Chen, Liang Kung Chen, Huei Kai Huang, Ching Hui Loh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: The aging society and climate changes pose significant challenges globally. Environmental volunteering solves these two problems by engaging older people in nature conservation as a possible model of productive aging. This review examines the current state of environmental volunteerism for older adults. Methods: We systematically searched for articles in Medline, Embase, CENTRAL, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Environmental volunteerism was defined as nature conservation activity without payment. There were 9 studies with a total of 328 participants. We conducted a narrative synthesis and meta-ethnography, which focused on types, benefits, motivations, and drawbacks of environmental volunteerism. Results: Three types of volunteering were identified: greening, recycling, and project-oriented. Their shared factors included physical activity, social connection, and meaningful purpose. Environmental volunteerism associated with benefits in physical health, mental wellbeing, social capital, and personal empowerment with no apparent drawbacks. Retired people find a purpose to live, opportunities for socialization and physical activity, and increased self-esteem in the process. The motivations for initiation and continued engagement were found to be socialization, generativity, usefulness to others, and pro-environmental attitude. Among them, socialization was the most mentioned motivation, and generativity was the unique factor for older adults compared with the general population. Conclusion: Environmental volunteerism may be a positive model for older adults, society, and environment. Policymakers can encourage more older adults to engage in environmental volunteering with concerns of motivations, found by this study. Future studies can further strengthen the evidence and explore more types of environmental volunteerism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104563
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • environmental volunteerism
  • generativity
  • nature conservation
  • older adults
  • productive aging
  • systematic review


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