Engaging Service Members of All Ages and Abilities in Service

Living today for a better tomorrow

May has been declared Older Americans Month, by the Administration on Aging (AoA) out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the AoA: “This year’s theme ‘Living Today for a Better Tomorrow’ reflects AoA’s continued focus on prevention efforts and programs throughout the country that are helping older adults have better health as they age.” Many seniors of all abilities are “living today for a better tomorrow” by committing themselves to national and community service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn & Serve programs.

In May 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service released “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” (PDF). The study “documents major findings from more than 30 rigorous and longitudinal studies that reviewed the relationship between health and volunteering. The study, which were controlled for other factors, found that volunteering leads to improved physical and mental health.”

Key findings include:

  • Older adults are more likely to receive greater health benefits from volunteering; including improved physical and mental health and greater life satisfaction.
  • Individuals who volunteer live longer.
  • State volunteer rates are strongly connected with the physical health of the state’s population.

Older Americans of all abilities engage in national and community service. On April 23, 2009, The National Service Inclusion Project held a webinar entitled “Strategies to Dynamically Engage Volunteers Over 55 in Program Training.” Jane Gay, the director of the Iowa Program for Assistive Technology and the Iowa COMPASS, spoke of effective ways to engage with people of all abilities, and specifically older adults, using Universal Design.

Ms. Gay’s presentation emphasized the importance of pre-planning when developing a universally-designed presentation, for example, “…[making] everybody’s handouts 16 or 18 fonts…[is] one strategy we recommended…use sans serif fonts with no tails, like aerial.”

She also suggested that on any registration form to ask if anyone needs a reasonable accommodation, such as, Braille, CART, interpreters, personal assistance, or a note taker.

Assistive technology may also be useful for seniors with and without disabilities in volunteering and trainings, such as:

  • A computer with a larger monitor s that fonts and websites are easier to see.
  • Making the mouse cursor larger & slower so that it is easier to follow on the screen.
  • Using a “ball” mouse that is easier to move and click.
  • Skills-based training designed around an individual’s interests.

Visit The National Service Inclusion Project website for a transcript and archive of “Strategies to Dynamically Engage Volunteers Over 55 in Program Training” or any other NSIP webinar. Look at this list of health resources for older Americans.

How does your service program positively engage members of all ages and abilities in service?

We always look forward to serving you! Please feel free to contact us with any disability inclusion questions and requests for information at NSIP [at] umb.edu or 888-491-0326 (V/TTY). Visit our website for a list of trainings offered by NSIP.

The National Service Inclusion Project is a cooperative agreement (08TAHMA001) between the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston in collaboration with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Association on Higher Education and Disability, National Council on Independent LivingNational Down Syndrome Congress. Information contained in this email is for informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement from the National Service Inclusion Project or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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