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Study Finds Boomers, Older Volunteers Serving On Their Own

woman doing volunteer painting for 'Habitats for Humanity'

— Billy Hustace/Getty Images

Though volunteering through organizations has remained stable in the last several years, a new report from AARP finds that informal service work among baby boomers and others over 45 years old is on the rise.

According to the report, the number of boomers and older Americans engaged in self-directed volunteering—volunteering on their own, outside of a formal organization—increased from 34 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2009. Additionally, seven in 10 boomers reported they are engaged in volunteering either on their own or through an organization, which is a 20 percent increase over the number of people who say they volunteer through an organization alone.

“We have long known that baby boomers stand ready to serve, but this data gives us new information about how they are serving,” said Thomas C. Nelson, AARP Chief Operating Officer. “As AARP works to activate Boomers and older Americans, we continue to track these trends so that collectively, the service community can better meet the needs of everyone interested in giving back.”

The study found particularly high rates of engagement in African Americans over 45 years old: they are likely to be very involved in volunteer work; helping to solve neighborhood programs; political activities; and working on state or national issues. More than half of African Americans surveyed reported being very involved in religious or spiritual activities. Additionally, nearly twice as many African Americans report being very involved in educational activities compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

“African Americans have a long history of civic and volunteer engagement in their communities,” Nelson said. “The data is encouraging and tells us that this tradition, which is so important to creating vibrant communities, remains strong.”

Report results are from an August 2009 telephone survey of several generations of Americans on their volunteering, giving, and civic engagement activities. The survey interviewed 1,475 Americans age 45 years and older (i.e., members of the Baby Boom, Silent, and Greatest generations) and, for comparative purposes, 500 members of Generation X (ages 29 to 44), 470 African Americans and 447 Hispanics.

 

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