Older Americans Provide Services Valued at $78 Billion to U.S. Economy

May 16, 2017

Seventh-annual Senior Corps Week – May 15-19 – honors RSVP, Foster Grandparent, and Senior Companion volunteers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that oversees Senior Corps, will celebrate the critical contributions older volunteers make across the country during the seventh annual Senior Corps Week, taking place May 15-19 during Older Americans Month.

Today, Senior Corps engages more than 245,000 adults through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs. For more than five decades, Senior Corps volunteers have used their skills and experience to mentor and tutor youth, help other adults maintain independence in their homes, connect veterans and military families to services, and more. 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.  

“As local organizations experience increased demands with fewer resources, older Americans are stepping up to fill in the gaps, and their service is more important now than ever,” said Erin McGrath, acting director of Senior Corps. “Older adults are transforming society and addressing some of the toughest problems facing our nation by closing the mentoring gap, reducing crime and reviving cities, fighting the opioid epidemic, helping seniors remain independent in their homes, and rebuilding communities following disasters.  I salute the Senior Corps volunteers leading these efforts and thank them for their commitment to serve their country.”

According to the annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America report by CNCS, more than 21 million Americans 55+ 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, their collective service provides a yearly economic benefit valued at $78 billion, while helping communities fill critical gaps in education, health care, and other services. The top-ranked volunteer activities among this group were collecting and distributing food, fundraising, and providing professional or management assistance to nonprofits.

With nearly 1 in every 5 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.  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.

Last year, 245,000 Senior Corps volunteers served 74.6 million hours helping 845,000 older adults remain independent in their homes; and improving the academic performance, self-esteem, and overall social behavior of more than 267,000 young people.  Here are several examples of Senior Corps projects in action:

  • Catholic Social Services Senior Companion Program: Through the MUSIC & MEMORY Program, Senior Companions help older adults struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive and physical challenges reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories in Ohio’s Franklin and Delaware counties.
  • City of Russellville Foster Grandparent Program: Last year, this Alabama Foster Grandparent Program partnered with 40 schools, pre-K centers, after-school tutoring programs, Head Start and daycare centers, rehab centers, parks and recreation programs, and a juvenile school program. These Senior Corps volunteers mentored and tutored more than 230 at-risk and special needs children during the 2015-2016 school year, improving their academic performance in literacy, math, and social and emotional development.
  • Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council: RSVP volunteers are reducing food insecurity by providing healthy food to children in Washington state’s Chelan and Douglas counties. Through the Packaging Friendship program, RSVP volunteers collect donations from groups and prepare packaged food for more than 400 children a week. Last year, RSVP volunteers provided healthy meals to more than 5,900 children participating in the summer food program who would otherwise not receive healthy and nutritious food outside the school year.
  • Dallas Foster Grandparent Program: Last year, the Dallas Foster Grandparent Program provided more than 113,000 hours of service to nearly 5,000 children with special needs in Dallas and Collin counties in Texas. This Senior Corps program has made a strong impact on students, improving school readiness and educational outcomes for children in need, with 100 percent of those paired with a Foster Grandparent reporting improved academic performance in literacy or math, and 99 percent demonstrating gains in social and emotional development.
  • RSVP of Brevard County: Through the Vets Driving Vets program, veterans serving as RSVP volunteers transport low-income, homebound veterans to medical and other appointments. In addition, these RSVP volunteers serve as area coordinators throughout Florida’s Brevard County and help recruit fellow veterans to serve with them.
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