Senior Corps & Health Benefits

Each year, Senior Corps engages roughly 220,000 older adults in service through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs, enriching their own lives and benefiting the communities they serve. 

Research shows that volunteering is good for the health and well-being of volunteers. But for older Americans with low-incomes and lower levels of education, a group vulnerable to poor health outcomes, many obstacles can make it difficult to volunteer. As a result, these individuals may miss out on the health and well-being benefits of volunteering, and communities may miss out on the volunteer service these individuals provide.

 

 

Senior Corps Grantee Toolkit

Thank you for helping to share the good news about the new research from Senior Corps! If you're a grantee interested in using this research, view this toolkit for helpful suggestions, tips, and resources.

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Senior Corps Volunteers Feel Healthier

Senior Corps volunteers reported much higher self-rated health scores, compared to older adults in similar circumstances who do not volunteer. Self-rated-health has been determined to be a valid marker of actual health.

Heart Icon Beating Well.

84%

of older adults reported improved or stable health, after two years of service in Senior Corps.

32%

of Senior Corps volunteers who reported good health at the beginning of the study reported improved health at the two-year follow-up.

 

Senior Corps Volunteers are Less Depressed, Less Isolated

Senior Corps volunteers reported feeling significantly less depressed and less isolated compared to non-volunteers. Social isolation is associated with depression and health issues including mortality.

Two individuals in an embrace.

78%

of those who reported 5 or more symptoms at the beginning of the study said they felt less depressed two years later.

88%

of Senior Corps volunteers who first described a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after two years.

 

Senior Corps Provides Access, Structure, Financial Support

Senior Corps provides older adults with important opportunities to serve their community.

Coin icon

80%

of Senior Corps volunteers serving through the Foster Grandparent or Senior Companion programs report household income less than $20,000 per year.

34%

report a long-lasting condition that limits basic physical activity.

Individuals with these characteristics face barriers to volunteering and are typically underrepresented in volunteering opportunities. These factors are considered high-risk for poorer health outcomes and other health disparities. Senior Corps programs successfully recruit and retain these older adults into important volunteer opportunities. Through their service, Senior Corps volunteers found: Satisfying and meaningful community service, opportunities for personal growth, a sense of accomplishment, and chances to make new friends.

One key difference between Senior Corps and other volunteering opportunities is the provision of a small hourly stipend for volunteers who have incomes up to twice the poverty line. While the large majority of volunteers reported joining service for altruistic reasons, close to one-third had an underlying financial reason. The modest stipend provided by Senior Corps helps remove the barriers to volunteering and ensures participants don’t incur additional costs while serving.

Senior Corps Foster Grandparent with student in classroom.

 

Senior Corps is Good for Caregivers

The results of a Senior Companion Program (SCP) caregiver study also provide evidence that respite services provided by SCP volunteers positively impact the health and well-being of those charged with serving as caregivers for their loved ones. Caregivers were grouped into critical, essential, and moderate categories based on personal and family needs. Those in the critical-needs group were the ones with the highest needs.

Caregiver supporting individual with cane.

76%

of caregivers in the critical-needs group reported Senior Companion respite services helped them “a lot” with both personal time and household management.
*approximately

60%

of caregivers reported that the services allowed them to be more involved in social activities and enjoy time with their friends and family.

40%

of caregivers who rated their health as fair or poor before respite support, now rate their health as good.

 

Methodology

The two longitudinal studies establish the impact of volunteer service on Senior Corps volunteers serving with the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) and the Senior Companion Program (SCP), as well as the impact of volunteer service for caregivers of Senior Companion clients. The two-year study, launched in 2014, collected data from 1,200 first-time Senior Corps volunteers throughout their service with the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs to determine the effect of national service on older adults’ overall health and well-being.

View Full Methodology >

 

Additional Resources on these Studies

Download the Issue Brief > View Full SC and FGP Longitudinal Report >View Full Caregivers Longitudinal Report > 

 

Looking for Additional Research?

Search our digital repository and our related research page for more reports and data. 

Search the Evidence Exchange >View Related Research >

 

Senior Corps state longitudinal study graphics collage

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Senior Corps volunteers from RSVP, Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions programs describe the health benefits they receive from volunteering.



Senior Corps: Making a Difference in their Communities

While the current study focuses on the health benefits to Senior Corps volunteers, Senior Corps volunteers also make a difference in their communities. For decades, volunteers age 55+ have been serving their communities through Senior Corps programs, led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for service, volunteering, and civic engagement. Each year, Senior Corps engages approximately 220,000 older adults in volunteer service through its Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP programs, enriching the lives of the volunteers and benefiting their communities.

More on our Senior Corps Programs >

 


The Corporation for National and Community Service sponsors and supports scholarly research.  Findings are used to identify effective strategies for national service, increase the evidence-base for its programs, and strengthen civic infrastructure and civic engagement in America. The Office of Research and Evaluation builds, shares and uses knowledge in multiple ways. Our CNCS webpages include ongoing and completed studies and resources for those interested in conducting their own program evaluations.  To find out more about research and evaluation at CNCS, check out our evidence exchange.

 

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