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Boomers Taking a “Second Act” Through Volunteering

by Erwin Tan

At 58, Dyann Brown of Rochester, New York found herself in early retirement after a long career in nonprofit management. Seeking to reflect principles rooted in her faith, Brown sought to share her talents and resources with her community.

Now she is an RSVP volunteer in Monroe County where she uses her skills and wisdom to provide fundraising and development consultation for Partners in Restorative Justice while also providing academic support for Rochester youth at the Notre Dame Learning Center. Volunteering not only keeps her busy, it provides Brown a way to channel her energy and talent into making Rochester a better place.

As a baby boomer, Brown is part of a generation with tremendous potential to leave a legacy through service to others. More than 77 million strong, boomers are an untapped resource -- the largest, healthiest, best-educated generation in our nation's history. As boomers approach retirement, they bring a lifetime of skills and experience that can be channeled into tackling some of our toughest problems of poverty, illiteracy, health care, and independent living.

More than 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day, and we are called to mobilize this enormous source of human capital to meet the vital needs of our communities. Nonprofits must focus recruitment efforts to attract boomers looking for a “second act” by providing leadership roles, flexibility, and utilizing their advanced skills and talents.

In communities across the country, budget cuts are affecting services at a time of increased need, and older Americans are stepping in to fill the gaps and provide critical support for overburdened nonprofits. Nationwide, nearly 22 million baby boomers volunteer their time through activities like fundraising, mentoring and tutoring youth, and managing other volunteers.

In addition to helping others, older volunteers are also helping themselves to live active, healthy lives through volunteering. Research shows that older volunteers experience lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, lower rates of depression and greater functional ability.

The Corporation for National and Community Service's Senior Corps programs engage more than 330,000 Americans ages 55+ through RSVP, the Foster Grandparent Program, and the Senior Companion Program.

In 2011, Senior Corps volunteers served 96.2 million hours, making a difference in the lives of more than 700,000 elderly who received assistance to remain independent in their homes; and more than 300,000 young people who received one-on-one tutoring and mentoring that improved their academic performance, self-esteem and overall social behavior.

In May the nation celebrates Older Americans Month and Senior Corps Week. As we recognize the contributions that older Americans have made, let's also look to the great possibilities ahead and make sure we harness the energy and drive of this exceptional generation. Visit GetInvolved.gov to find out how you can be part of the solution to the challenges in your community.

Dr. Erwin Tan is the Director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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