Value of Senior Volunteers to U.S. Economy Estimated at $77 Billion

May 16, 2016

Sixth annual Senior Corps Week – May 16-21 – recognizes RSVP, Foster Grandparent, and Senior Companion volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers Senior Corps, will recognize the impact that Senior Corps volunteers have in communities across the country during the sixth annual Senior Corps Week, taking place May 16-21 during Older Americans Month.

Today, nearly 270,000 volunteers age 55+ are serving through Senior Corps’ three programs – Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP. For more than four decades, Senior Corps volunteers have used their lifetime of skills and experience to meet community needs.

As part of this year’s activities, new television PSAs will be launched highlighting the impact of Foster Grandparent volunteers across the country.  From administering the Senior Corps pledge to issuing proclamations, elected officials, community leaders, and organizations will honor Senior Corps volunteers at recognition events and service projects throughout the week.

This year will also mark the 45th anniversary of Senior Corps RSVP.  Created in 1971, the RSVP program marks 45 years of providing volunteers an opportunity to use their skills and experience to tutor and mentor disadvantaged and disabled youth, renovate homes, and respond to disasters.

“For generations, older Americans have made 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. I salute the nearly 270,000 Senior Corps volunteers leading these efforts and thank them for their commitment to tackle pressing challenges in their communities.”

According to the 2015 Volunteering and Civic Life in America research by CNCS, more than  21 million older adults – nearly a 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 $77 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.  For example, in March 107-year-old Foster Grandparent Virginia McLaurin received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement for her two decades of service to schoolchildren in the nation’s capital.  Ms. McLaurin became an internet sensation after a video of her dancing with the President and Mrs. Obama went viral. 

Last year, 270,000 Senior Corps volunteers made a difference in the lives of 840,000 elderly who received assistance to remain independent in their homes; and more than 267,000 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:

  • Appalachian Senior Companion Program: The Senior Companion Program serves northwestern North Carolina, one of the most rural regions in the state. Last year, Senior Companions served 72 elderly residents needing assistance with activities of daily living and transportation. As a result, 85 percent remained living independently in their homes. In addition, healthcare costs were reduced by an estimated $2.8 million based on average costs for institutional care.
  • FiftyForward’s RSVP Program: FiftyForward’s RSVP program supports at-risk youth, frail seniors, and veterans across Davidson and Williamson counties in Tennessee. In 2015, FiftyForward’s 531 RSVP volunteers supported 2,500 U.S. armed forces members, 1,200 service family members, and 500 veterans. During the 2014-15 school year, 124 RSVP volunteers provided one-on-one academic assistance to 446 elementary school students, contributing 4,556 service hours. 
  • Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota: Last year, Senior Companions served 1,831 senior and homebound adults, giving 250,659 hours of service to help them continue to live independently. As a result, 93 percent of clients reported increased social ties and social support. More than 90 percent of those served said that because of their Senior Companion, they could get to medical appointments and grocery stores, were eating meals regularly, and were able to remain independent in their own homes.
  • RSVP of Enid and North Central Oklahoma: The RSVP program connects veterans and their families to benefits available to them. Last year, RSVP volunteers served more than 5,000 hours through Disabled American Veterans (DAV). The DAV utilized their mobile command unit to help search and rescue for Moore tornado victims. While Moore was not in the project's service area, RSVP volunteers were raised more than $1.2 million dollars in claims for affected veterans.
  • Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS): To celebrate the Foster Grandparent Program’s 50th anniversary, staff from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), a sponsor of eight Foster Grandparent sites in Texas, donated more than 1,400 children’s books to the Foster Grandparents serving in their program. In the past year, the program has provided nearly 500,000 hours of service to 1,778 children with special needs in Austin, Abilene, Corpus Christi, Denton, Mexia, Lubbock, Richmond, Lufkin and their immediate surrounding areas.

Early this month, CNCS announced funding opportunities through its Senior Corps programs. The competitions, with approximately $2 million in funding, were open to eligible Indian, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders seeking to increase the impact of national service not currently served by Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions. Applications for funding are due by Tuesday, June 14. To learn more about the grant competitions and instructions to apply, visit the FGP NOFA or SCP NOFA webpages.

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