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Senior Corps Fills Gaps in the Social Safety Net

by Greg Tucker

Shrinking budgets are creating new holes in support services for our most vulnerable citizens at a time when their needs are growing. At the same time, many in the largest and most-influential generation are at a stage in their lives where they are looking for ways to give back. It's almost a perfect storm of supply meeting demand

Thankfully, thousands of Senior Corps volunteers – working through Foster Grandparents, RSVP, and Senior Companions -- are ready to fill in the gaps. All told, last year more than 450,000 Senior Corps volunteers are making a difference in their communities, and meeting many of society's toughest challenges head-on.

  • Foster Grandparents linked nearly 30,000 volunteers with more than 200,000 at-risk children to provide one-on-one tutoring and mentoring services. The return on their service is outstanding -- 81 percent of children working with a Foster Grandparent demonstrated improved academic performance while 90 percent demonstrated improved self–image.
  • RSVP connected more than 400,000 volunteers with areas of need including mentoring and tutoring children, helping natural disaster victims, improving the environment, and lending their business and technical experience to nonprofit groups. These volunteers served 62 million hours through more than 65,000 organizations in 2010.
  • Senior Companions volunteers provided 12 million hours of service to more than 60,000 elderly adults to support their desire to live independently in their own homes. The 14,684 volunteers performed services including providing transportation, assisting with groceries, helping with bills and paperwork, and offering respite care to relieve those caring others in the home.

A lifetime of experience has given baby boomers unique skills that can pay big dividends when they become invested in the challenges that face the nation, especially when resources are scarce and needs are great.

As these volunteers tackle problems in education, elder care, disaster response, and other areas, they show that boomers will continue to lead by example in every stage of their lives. And their example will improve their communities, save precious government resources, and pave the way for others to follow.

Learn more about how to get involved with Senior Corps at www.getinvolved.gov/.

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