Fifth annual Senior Corps Week – May 18-22 – honors RSVP, Foster Grandparent, and Senior Companion volunteers
For more than four decades, Senior Corps volunteers have used their lifetime of skills and experience to meet community needs. Today, more than 270,000 volunteers age 55+ are serving through Senior Corps’ three programs – Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP. As part of this year’s activities, a Senior Corps pledge will be introduced to volunteers for the first time ever which will be administered to volunteers when they enter service or at special moments throughout the year.
“For generations, seniors have been making a powerful impact in their communities, and their service is more important now than ever,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “With so many people in need, senior volunteers are making a difference in the lives of children, veterans, elderly, and disaster survivors. Leading the way are more than 270,000 Senior Corps volunteers – dedicated Americans using a lifetime of skills and experience to tackle pressing challenges in their communities.”
According to last year’s Volunteering and Civic Life in America
report by CNCS, more than 20.7 million older adults –quarter of those 55 and older – contributed more than 3.3 billion hours of service in their communities. Based on the Independent Sector's estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour, the yearly economic benefit of this service to the nation is valued at $75 billion. The top-ranked volunteer activities for 55-plus volunteers were collecting and distributing food, fundraising, and providing professional or management assistance to nonprofits – demonstrating that boomers and other older volunteers are using their lifetime of skills and experience to meet community needs.
In addition to helping others, older volunteers are also helping themselves by living active, healthy lives through volunteering. A growing body of research points to mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, decreased rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations. With nearly one in every five Americans projected to be age 60 or older by 2030, a great opportunity exists to engage older Americans in service to meet critical community needs while contributing to longer, healthier lives.
“As the leading edge of the boomer generation reaches the traditional retirement age of 65, nonprofits and communities should be poised to take advantage of this extraordinary wave of human capital that has the potential to transform our nation,” said Dr. Erwin Tan, director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service. “America's baby boomers are the healthiest and best-educated generation in history, and they can leave an incredible legacy through service to others.”
Last year, 270,000 Senior Corps volunteers served nearly 74 million hours, making a difference in the lives of more than 840,000 elderly who received assistance to remain independent in their homes; and more than 267,100 young people who received tutoring and mentoring that improved their academic performance, self-esteem, and overall social behavior. Here are several examples of Senior Corps project in action:
- Audubon Area Community Services Senior Companion Program: The Senior Companion program sponsored by Audubon Area Community Services Inc. in Owensboro, Kentucky, provides in-home service to chronic, long-term clients. Volunteers work one-on-one with clients to develop and maintain independent living skills. In 2014, 73 Senior Companions provided 72,669 hours of in-home care assistance to 305 frail elderly clients. As a result, 79 percent of clients who received weekly assistance maintained or improved their activities of daily living and 91 percent of clients were able to remain living in their home.
- Chicago RSVP, AARP Experience Corps: AARP Experience Corps uses evidence-based tutoring to guide children in kindergarten through third grade on the path to reading proficiently and confidently. AARP launched its program in 2013 recruiting 170 RSVP volunteers who served more than 12,700 hours tutoring 1,230 students in 92 classrooms. This resulted in 82.5 percent of students demonstrating improvement on a standardized assessment with the support of the RSVP volunteer.
- PEACE, Inc. Foster Grandparent Program: The Syracuse School District gained support from both New York State Legislators and local school boards to expand the PEACE, Inc. Foster Grandparent Program to every first and second grade classroom, the first city in the nation to do so. The school district invested $350,000 in this expansion, which was supplemented by additional funds from CNCS. By the end of 2015, more than 100 Foster Grandparents will be in the Syracuse Public School System.
- Queens Veterans Court: The Queens Veterans Court in Queens, N.Y. engages RSVP volunteers who are veterans to mentor veterans with low-level misdemeanors who find themselves in court due to behavior, mental health, and substance abuse issues related to their military service. Last year, RSVP volunteers helped 50 veterans get their lives back on track and keep them out of more serious judicial proceedings.
- RSVP of Central Oklahoma: In 2014, more than 90 volunteers from RSVP of Central Oklahoma contributed 4,515 hours of service in recovery efforts after the 2013 tornado in Moore, Okla. Senior Corps volunteers answered disaster hotlines, performed follow-up calls to families affected by the tornado, served food and provided companionship at day shelters, provided survivors with medical appointments, and collected and distributed donated goods to disaster survivors.