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What Role Do Retirees Play in Today's Society, Part 3

by Betty Soldz

In an article in the "Philadelphia Inquirer" about author Marc Freedman, we are told that not until last winter when he was promoting his book "Prime Time: How Baby Boom Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America" did he realize the breadth of volunteer community activity taking place among retired Americans.

Retirees are demanding and playing an active role in American society. A survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that "women and better educated Americans are particularly enthusiastic about incorporating volunteer opportunities into their retirement plans." They are working through numerous nonprofit organizations as well as political organizations and other groups.

I am devoting this article to The National Senior Corps, a multifaceted nonprofit organization that benefits many in society through the productive work of retiree volunteers. I'm also including information on an agency that assists older Americans in returning to the workplace.

The federally funded Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), one of the programs under the National Senior Corps, offers volunteers opportunities which coincide with their special interests and skills. This program offers maximum flexibility and choice to its volunteers who are assigned to nonprofit agencies they select. Although choices may differ by state or city the following are some of the options that may be available in your area.

The RSVP VITA program is appropriate for those who are able to donate several hours a week to the community by running errands and providing companionship to frail, homebound and lonely seniors. VITA volunteers earn service credits for their work; these credits can be used to receive help, when needed, for themselves or family members. RSVP also seeks volunteers who would like to read to children at schools, shelters and daycare centers or to play with children who are living in family and battered women's shelters. The days and hours are usually flexible and RSVP will supply books for you to read to the children.

Other RSVP programs in your community might include telephone counselors providing help to parents dealing with the stress of parenting. This volunteer job is perfect for those who prefer to work at home after a few hours of training; it also allows a very flexible time schedule. For those who enjoy variety in their volunteer work, your local RSVP may have a Seniors On Call program that is designed to allow one to volunteer to perform a variety of tasks. These range from assisting with bulk mailings to assisting at the Food Bank and other similar diverse tasks.

To find out more about the RSVP or the Senior Corps opportunities in your community, contact your local Commission on the Affairs of the Elderly or the Area Agency on Aging or call the Elder care Locator 800-677-1116 for the phone number in your area.

For those who want to return to work due to insufficient income there is a splendid agency worthy of investigating. The National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center (NSCERC) is a nonprofit corporation that develops and implements programs for older adults. It is a major sponsor of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), also known as the Senior Aids Program, which is funded by the Older Americans Act through grants from the US Department of Labor. Funding covers wages, benefits and supportive services while elders are in training at a local community agency to learn new skills to assist them in returning to the labor market.

Training is a critical component of the program. In exchange for the service of enrollees, community agencies (primarily non-profits) provide a supportive environment, supervision and the use of new workplace technology. The following comments from several seniors in this program demonstrate how valuable it can be:

"I have sharpened my skills, and now, all of a sudden, my lifetime of personal and work experience is important again. SCSEP puts seniors back in the marketplace, and for me, it allowed dignity and self confidence to return."

"My Senior Aides position helps me bridge the gap between former employment and my search for a new job. As a Senior Aid, I now have the opportunity to remain part of the workforce."


NSCERC partners with other Senior Aid national sponsors, federal and state employment programs, educational institutions, and One-Stop Career Centers to promote the value of older workers as an important economic resource. To find out more about this program in your area contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

The partnership between volunteers and nonprofit agencies benefits society and may, as shown above, benefit older Americans in their own search for economic security. There are so many ways that seniors contribute to society through the many agencies, organizations, schools, libraries, hospitals, etc., that it is not possible to mention them all.

The issue to be noted and remembered is that these contributions be recognized and appreciated.

Next month I will conclude this series with an article on older women/men who for many reasons choose employment after retirement.

Websites cited in the article:

National Senior Corps

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)

National Senior Citizens' Education and Research Center

Senior Community Service Employment Program

Older Americans Act Reauthorization (Department of Labor)


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