Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Jyothi Gupta



Current research in the United States suggests that people over age 65 are more likely to volunteer on a given day than those in any other age group. Given the demographic trends, increased needs for community social services, and the fiscal reality, it is likely that older adults, through their volunteering efforts, will meet some of the unmet needs of the community. There is a dearth in the literature on studies that examine the motivations for volunteering in different racial and/or ethnic groups, in rural and urban low-income areas. The purpose of this study was to understand the factors that influence volunteering in older African American women in a poor, rural and racially segregated community.


The study used a mixed-methods design with a quantitative and a qualitative component. The Volunteer Functional Inventory was administered to members of the ακα sorority chapter in Clarksdale. Survey results were analyzed by descriptive statistical analysis. The qualitative data was obtained by interviewing six community elders using open-ended questions about volunteering. Framework Analysis guided the data analysis process. Trustworthiness and rigor was established by data triangulation.


Qualitative results revealed themes relating to both the individuals and the community of Clarksdale. Overarching themes pertaining to individuals that emerged were related to individual beliefs, values, and benefits of volunteering. Themes that emerged about the community had a temporal aspect; inescapable racial inequality spans the past and present, with the theme of loss of community illustrating the present situation, and the theme of rebuilding community spanning the present and the future. Quantitative results show that the participants were motivated to volunteer by their values, desire for a greater understanding of their community issues, and for enhancing social relationships. Additionally, with increasing age, a desire for enhanced psychological well-being also becomes an important motivator. Satisfaction was ranked high and was unanimous.


These results provide insights into personal attributes of volunteers as well as the health benefits of volunteering. Physical therapists can promote healthy aging in communities, improve community health and well-being, and thereby fulfill the core values of the profession.