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Debroah Cox-Roush, Director, Senior Corps

Join CNCS as we celebrate Older Americans Month

Community leader, mentor, disaster responder, tutor, patient advocate – these are just a few terms I am proud to use to describe Senior Corps volunteers. Tailored to adults age 55 and over, our Senior Corps Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and RSVP volunteer programs include more than 200,000 seniors nationwide who engage in volunteer activities that support critical community services that improve the quality of life for all generations. Now, as we enter May and Older Americans Month, I am delighted to report that while our volunteers are helping others, they are also improving their own health.

The Benefits of Senior Corps Service

How do I know this? We conducted a rigorous, independent study of more than 1,000 of our Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion volunteers across a three-year period to determine if their service had any effect on their overall health and well-being. The results of the study were astounding and confirmed what we had long suspected – volunteering in Senior Corps bears tremendous health benefits

Our volunteers reported higher self-rated health scores compared to other older adults in similar circumstances who did not volunteer. After two years of service in Senior Corps, 84 percent of older adults reported improved or stable health. And, of those who reported depression at the beginning of the study, 78 percent said they felt less depressed after two years of volunteering. This study shows lower mortality rates, increased strength and energy, lower rates of depression, and fewer physical limitations in those who volunteer in our programs.

Combating Depression

Beyond the health benefits, what really excites me about this study is the potential it demonstrates for older adults. Older adults are especially vulnerable to health problems linked to depression and social isolation, and often face increased barriers to finding volunteer opportunities. Seniors with financial or physical limitations are also underrepresented in volunteering and are considered a high-risk for poorer health outcomes and other health disparities. Eighty percent of the individuals in this study have household incomes of $20,000 or less and are often underrepresented in other volunteer programs. 

Senior Corps provides access, structure, and financial support for programs that engage older Americans who otherwise would not be able to volunteer. As a result, volunteers are actively serving their communities, feeling a sense of accomplishment and purpose, and reaping the health benefits. 

Keeping Up with a Growing Population

For more than five decades, older Americans have been serving their communities through Senior Corps programs that meet needs in education, health care, and other safety net services across the country. These volunteers contribute more than 55 million hours annually, service worth more than $1 billion to the U.S. economy. The contributions of senior volunteers will likely grow as this age group grows to make up one-fifth of the U.S. population by 2030.

We know older adults are tremendous assets who provide enormous social and economic benefits to their communities. So, if you or a senior in your community wants to live a healthier, happier life – join Senior Corps. And join us as we celebrate Older Americans Month and support Senior Corps by spreading the word about the personal and community benefits of volunteering.

Click here to read President Trump’s Older Americans Month Proclamation

Deborah Cox-Roush is Director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Click here to learn more about Senior Corps and visit our Healthy Volunteers page to discover more about the health benefits of Senior Corps volunteering.