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 Continue reading

Why It’s Wrong to Assume that All Service Participants are Young

How branding national service as an opportunity only for young people does more harm to the movement than good.

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

Christian Witkin for TIME Magazine

While many service corps do have upper age limits — City Year, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Public Allies, and many other team-based programs — most programs do not have an upper age limit.

In fact, several programs specifically recruit professionalsExperience Corps, Atlas Corps, CUSO-VSO (the Canadian VSO), Volunteers for Prosperity, and United Nations Volunteers just to name a few. Others like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps*VISTA recruit almost entirely college graduates because of the skill required in carrying out service.

And yet when people speak of service they almost always describe it as an opportunity for young people to give back, receive scholarship money, develop leadership skills, and go an an adventure before settling down with a real job.

What difference does it make if most people think of national or international service as a pursuit for the young?

Here are some reasons:

Recruitment:

If we assume only young people will enlist in a citizen service corps, we won’t recruit new corps members as creatively Continue reading