Tens of millions of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, while not as civically active as the Greatest Generation in their younger years, are healthier, living longer and appear ready to increase their civic participation. In an effort to better understand the civic behaviors and attitudes of Americans and to help ground the research in the stories and perspectives of the Boomer and Silent Generations, AARP commissioned a series of focus groups and a nationally representative survey of Americans ages 44-79 (“Experienced Americans”).
The report may be downloaded in its entirety or in individual sections (all are in PDF format) below. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these files:
- Full Report (6.6 MB)
- Introduction and Executive Summary (550 KB)
- Ready to Serve (700 KB)
- Motivations and Barriers (1.4 MB)
- The Way Forward (870 KB)
- Conclusion, Acknowledgements and Methodology (530 KB)
- End Notes and Bibliography (930 KB)
Key findings include:
- Four in ten Experienced Americans (41%) indicate they are very or somewhat likely to increase the amount of time they spend volunteering in the next 5 years, and nearly the same proportion (39%) of retired Americans report that they did increase their volunteering when they retired.
- Not only are Experienced Americans interested in volunteering more, but most are able to do so. A majority (53%) of Experienced Americans are unimpeded by health or care giving for relatives in their home.
- Fifty-two percent of respondents said that their desire to “help people in need” was an extremely important motivation for volunteering, followed by 48 percent who identified the desire to “stay healthy and active.”
- Respondents expressed the most interest in volunteering through faith-based or religious groups (45%), by mentoring or tutoring young people (40%), and by helping older adults live independently (38%).
- Respondents also identified key barriers to their civic engagement:
- They prefer to volunteer without a regular schedule (79%).
- They have no time (70%).
- They have not been asked (68%).
- They need to make money (54%).
The many talents of millions of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation cannot remain on the sidelines in the face of so many pressing community problems, among them staggering high school dropout rates and millions of Americans who need services to live independently in their homes. Our effectiveness in engaging these extraordinary generations of Americans—meeting them where they are, sensitive to their motivations and barriers, and pulling institutional levers to encourage them to give more—will make the difference in whether our country fulfills its civic promise.
Peter D. Hart Research Associates in association with Civic Enterprises conducted this research for AARP. A total of 1,012 adults aged 44-79 completed a national telephone survey during June 6-11, 2008. Respondents included Baby Boomers born 1946-1964 and Silent Generation members born 1929-1945. The sample included a representative nationwide base sample of 808 adults ages 44-79, with oversamples of 104 African Americans and 100 Hispanics ages 44-79. In addition, four focus groups were conducted in April 2008 with older adults who expressed some level of willingness to increase their volunteering. For more information, contact James Dau at 202-434-2531 or Jordan McNerney at 202-434-2569. (39 pages)
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