Title: National Service for Seniors over Age 55 Leads to Significant Positive Health Outcomes
Stream: Aging and Gerontology
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Elizabeth Kimberly Sellon, Fordham University, United States
Gregory Stewart, Miami University, United States
Of the 98 million Americans over-55, only 1 million of those volunteer, even though research has proven it improves longevity and quality of life (Zedlewski, 2006). The American government has invested funding in various volunteer programs through a program called AmeriCorps. Over 40,000 communities across the country are serviced by 270,000 volunteers whose combined volunteering accounts for 1.6 billion service hours yearly. Established in 1965, AmeriCorps mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. One of their programs, the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP), specifically gives 22,000 seniors the opportunity to be a volunteer yearly. FGP seeks to increase the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of this population, and it has had remarkable success. Per AmeriCorps data, 84% of senior volunteers report an increase in positive health outcomes after one year of service. This program’s design is worthy of replication by other countries and social service organizations for a number of reasons. It is one of the few volunteer programs for seniors that offers an annual stipend. The program appeals to funders because not only do seniors benefit, but there are benefits for multiple generations; it is a tutoring program for low-income students, and seeks to address a host of other social issues affecting infants, children, teenagers, and young-mothers. The intergenerational component of this program significantly impacts seniors and is a unique solution to loneliness, which significantly impacts seniors’ health.
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