1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Wanted: Baby Boomers for National Service

Older Americans viewed as resources, not costs


Dateline: May 2005

How do you get America's 77 million baby boomers to volunteer for national service programs? For starters, it will take a "big commitment from nonprofit groups, business, and government," according to David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Baby boomers are generally considered to be persons born during America's post-WWII population growth spurt between 1946 and 1964.

Eisner, whose job includes encouraging volunteering and other forms of civic engagement among baby boomers in order to address a wide range challenging social issues, urges the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging to view aging boomers as resources, not costs.

“We at the Corporation (for National and Community Service) have long viewed older Americans not as a social cost, but as an underused asset,” Eisner said, noting that Senior Corps is the largest network of senior volunteer opportunities in the country. Because of that experience, he said, the Corporation was ready and willing to play whatever role the committee and conference deemed appropriate. He added, “We need your support to help advance our challenge of engaging vast numbers of older adults in service to their communities.”

In preparation for this decade's White House Conference on Aging, scheduled to take place December 11-14 in Washington, D.C., the Conference's Policy Committee is holding meetings, listening sessions, and public forums across the country to seek input on issues of concern to older Americans. From that input, the committee will develop a set of policy recommendations for the full White House Conference on Aging, and the policies ultimately adopted by the full conference will be submitted to the President and Congress.

Eisner sees finding ways to entice and engage baby boomers into voluntary national service as a major goal of the 2005 Conference on Aging. His own Senior Corps currently engages more than 500,000 older Americans in community service through the Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) programs. Eisner noted that baby boomers have different skill sets and preferences than earlier generations of Americans. Consequently, he said, “We will need to create the kind of infrastructure that will support and sustain a new vision for volunteering for these adults.” To that end, Eisner asked the committee to recommend that the Conference on Aging support policies and initiatives that:

  • Encourage a significant cultural shift in the thinking of the nonprofit sector in how groups use volunteers, and help nonprofits create meaningful opportunities for service by the coming wave of older Americans;

  • Secure commitments from the business sector to expand volunteer programs, offer flexible work options to older employees, and enhance notions of good corporate citizenship;

  • Give an appropriate role to government, including charging the Corporation for National and Community Service with bringing baby boomers into prominence in America’s civic activities; and

  • Promote an increase in volunteering, service, and civic engagement by baby boomers and other older adults, including through a public education campaign to promote the health benefits of volunteering by older Americans.

    Eisner further pointed to two critical community needs that would benefit from increased volunteering among baby boomers: long-term care for older adults, and tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged young people. Baby boomers can be a central part of the response to these needs, noting the positive impact that Senior Corps’ three programs – RSVP, the Foster Grandparent Program, and the Senior Companion Program – have had in those areas over the past four decades.

  • ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.