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Volunteering By Seniors Hit 10-Year High

By The NonProfit Times - May 7, 2013

Volunteering by senior citizens hit a 10-year high in 2011 with one in three U.S. volunteers age 55 and older. More than 20 million senior volunteers gave nearly three billion of hours of service, at a value of $67 billion.

The data are from Volunteering in American, which uses U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics data. The data is from 2011.

According to new data released by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in Washington, D.C., the percentage of volunteers who are seniors has steadily increased during the past decade. It went from 25.1 percent in 2002 to 31.2 percent in 2011. Nearly three-quarters (72.4 percent) are volunteering informally by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors, seven points higher than the national average.

“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 CNCS. “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 360,000 Senior Corps volunteers – dedicated Americans using a lifetime of skills and experience to tackle pressing challenges in their communities.”

CNCS is a federal agency and largest grantmaker for service and volunteering. It oversees Senior Corp., which taps the skills, talents, and experience of more than 360,000 Americans age 55 and older to meet a wide range of community needs through three programs, the Foster Grandparent Program, RSVP, and the Senior Companion Program.

President Obama issued a proclamation last week, which read: “Many seniors are using a lifetime of experience to serve those around them. Even after decades of hard work, men and women are taking on new roles after retirement — organizing, educating, innovating, and making sure they leave the next generation with the same opportunities they had. It is a commitment that shines brightly in programs like Senior Corps…”

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.

“Volunteering helps Americans by keeping them active, healthy, and engaged,” added Dr. Erwin Tan, Director of Senior Corps at CNCS. “As our nation’s older population rapidly grows, we have a tremendous opportunity to unleash the power of older volunteers on our most pressing problems.”

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