Senior Citizens and Volunteering

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(4/13/09)- One of the goals of the Obama administration is to put people back to work, so that both the economy and the nation can benefit. The media has given plenty of publicity to the stimulus package and to the "bailout" of financial institutions.

Another one of the goals of the administration is to encourage people to volunteer. One of the catalysts in this effort is the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Act of 2009.

One of the provisions in the act triples the size of the AmeriCorps, from 75,000 slots to 250,000 slots. AmeriCorps helps link volunteers nationwide with local organizations to further education, health care and housing among other priorities.

As an example of the Act, it would expand to nationwide a pilot project under way in California called Encore Fellows. This program is designed to help people who have finished, or are near the end of their primary careers, formally move into the nonprofit sector.

The bill sets up Encore fellowships in each of the 50 states, with as many as 10 fellows per state. The program provides training for fellows to move into full-or-part-time service in the nonprofit sector or government.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, which also runs AmeriCorps, would select the fellows and potential "host" agencies. The federal government would pay each fellow a stipend of $11,000 a year, and require the host agency to at least match that amount.

(8/01/07)-More than half of adults 55 and older express some interest in doing some form of volunteer work, but are often stymied in their effort to find an organization that fits their needs.

A five-part study from VolunteerMatch, a free San Francisco-based nonprofit online service that deals with national volunteering opportunities was recently released by this organization. Many of the 77 million baby boomers that were born between 1946 and 1964 are healthy and active enough to want to help out their communities through volunteer work.

Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch said: "They're far more interested in volunteering than they are given credit for."

Among VolunteerMatch users, those 55 and older volunteer do more volunteer work hours than any other age group, averaging 226 hours a year, according to the study.

Of older non-volunteers who were very or fairly interested in doing volunteer work, 39% said they had not found the right opportunity. 36% reported health concerns as their major barrier in not doing volunteer work. More than one in four said they did not find anything well suited to their skills, and 22% cited a preference for giving back in other ways.

Almost 17% said that they could not afford to become volunteers. Thirteen percent said they did not know where to look and 8% said they had had a previous volunteer experience that was less then positive.

Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted the study, and included 2,316 registered VolunteerMatch volunteer users, 1,024 staff members of nonprofit organization and a telephone survey of 507 adults not currently volunteering. It was sponsored by the Atlantic Philanthropies, with additional funding from the MetLife Foundation.

The author of this article has been a volunteer with NY Cares ( ) for several years now. There are a wide variety of different projects that are available on a monthly basis. To become a member you must attend a one time only, one-hour session before you can go out on a project.


Allan Rubin
updated April 13, 2009

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