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American Dream on Life Support: Boomer-Plus Americans Believe They Will Leave World in Worse Shape

Robert Putnam commented, “I’ve called the Greatest Generation the ‘long civic generation’ – those who volunteered, gave to charities, trusted one another and key institutions, and participated politically at higher rates than generations before or since. I hope that we can meet the Boomer and Silent Generation where they are and fashion sensible ways to engage them more deeply; even a modest increase in their civic engagement could make a world of difference.”

Harris Wofford said, “Our generation lived through the Great Depression, served in World War II, supported the Marshall Plan and set the pace for civic action. Every generation of Americans seeks purpose and is ready to be called to serve. We need a national dialogue that helps unlock the talents and skills of these next two generations of experienced Americans.”

Other key findings from More to Give:

• Respondents are motivated to help others. Over half (52%) of respondents said that the desire to “help people in need” was an extremely important motivation for volunteering, followed by 48% who cited the desire to “stay healthy and active” as a motivation to volunteer.

• Many respondents are interested in helping the young and old. 40% are most interested in mentoring or tutoring young people, and 38% are most interested in helping older people live independently.

• Greater access to education and health care are two key motivators among respondents. Over half of boomers surveyed (55%) said that education awards they can earn and give to a child in exchange for significant levels of volunteer service would have a big or moderate impact on their participation in volunteer activities. Similarly, nearly half of boomer respondents (47%) cited access to group health insurance as another key incentive to volunteer. These incentives are most appealing to African Americans and Hispanics.

• Respondents are not impeded by health or caregiving issues. A majority of older adult respondents (53%) said they are unimpeded by health or caregiving for relatives in their home.

• Lack of time and the need to make money are perceived as barriers to volunteering. Among the chief barriers to volunteerism, include a perceived lack of time (70%) or need to make money (54%). Most Americans from the baby boomer and silent generations expressed an interest in volunteering without a regular schedule.

• Volunteerism split among party affiliation. Among those surveyed, Republicans reported volunteering more than Democrats (83% - 67%), which is likely due to their greater tendency of regularly attending religious services.

• Women are more likely to volunteer now and in future. Among those surveyed, women are currently volunteering more than men (76% - 60%). Women are also more likely to increase their service in the next few years (44% - 38%), particularly among boomer women (50%).

• Boomers, Hispanics and African Americans were the most likely to expect an increase in their volunteer service, as are those who attend religious services, vote and are healthy.

Nelson added: “AARP was founded with the motto, ‘To Serve, Not to Be Served,’ and we’ve been engaging volunteers for fifty years. We are putting a high priority on increasing the number and involvement of 50+ volunteers, which will not only help keep them active and healthy, but will help meet our country’s urgent needs.”

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