WASHINGTON, May 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to new data released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), senior volunteering is at a 10-year high – one in three volunteers is a senior age 55 and older. These men and women tap a lifetime of experience to help those in greatest need. More than 20 million senior volunteers gave nearly three billion hours of service, at a value of $67 billion.
"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 360,000 Senior Corps volunteers – dedicated Americans using a lifetime of skills and experience to tackle pressing challenges in their communities."
CNCS also found that the percentage of volunteers who are seniors has steadily increased over the last decade (up six points – from 25.1% in 2002 to 31.2% in 2011). Nearly three-quarters (72.4%) are volunteering informally by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors, seven points higher than the national average.
CNCS – the nation's federal agency and largest grantmaker for service and volunteering – oversees Senior Corps. Senior Corps taps the skills, talents, and experience of more than 360,000 Americans age 55 and over to meet a wide range of community needs through three programs, the Foster Grandparent Program, RSVP, and the Senior Companion Program.
Each year, elected officials and community leaders spotlight the impact of Senior Corps during Senior Corps Week, taking place May 6-10 during Older Americans Month. The week will be marked by service projects and recognition events across the country. Already, more than 30 governors have issued proclamations for Senior Corps Week, representing broad support for the vital contribution Senior Corps makes to our communities and nation.
President Obama issued a proclamation last week, which said "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."
Examples of Senior Corps volunteers in action include:
- Disaster Response in West Texas: When a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, on April 17, it hit home for the Heart of Texas RSVP volunteers. Many are part of the community and were personally affected by the tragedy, but sprang into action. More than 60 RSVP volunteers joined 20 AmeriCorps members to distribute meals, coordinate volunteers, manage donations, and more in the days and weeks since the explosion.
- Mentoring Children: At Moody Air Force Base, many military children experience separation anxiety as their parents prepare for deployment. Nine dedicated Foster Grandparents mentor these children to help them through difficult transitions. In 2012, Senior Corps volunteers served nearly 300,000 children through one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to improve their academic performance, self-esteem, and overall social behavior. More than 3,000 children were in military families.
- Helping Seniors Remain Independent: One of the most important things to a senior is remaining independent, which can decrease isolation and depression. Retiree Richard Chong likes keeping busy by spending his afternoons as a Senior Companion, driving housebound seniors to doctor's appointments and errands, so they can stay in their own homes. Senior Corps volunteers helped nearly 800,000 elderly Americans remain in their homes in 2012.
- In Service to Veterans: In the next five years, more than one million service members will face the challenge of transitioning to civilian life. When soldiers are injured, disconnected from communities or facing unemployment, that task is even more difficult. In 2012, Senior Corps volunteers served more than 560,000 veterans. More than 26,000 Senior Corps volunteers are veterans themselves.
For more information about Senior Corps, visit www.Serve.gov.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and George H.W. Bush Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.
SOURCE Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)