Maine has the oldest population of any state in the U.S. This rapidly growing aging population coupled with a strong relationship between volunteerism and health emphasizes the need for greater volunteer programs for older adults. The Maine Gerontological Society published this report to examine the importance of utilizing the skills and expertise of older adults to improve communities across the country. The report also highlights different programs that have been established to do just that.
Studies have shown that older adults who volunteer experience greater longevity, higher functional ability and lower rates of depression (page 1). The sheer size of the massive Boomer population makes this group a great resource for communities looking for volunteers to help resolve community issues. However, communities must find ways to engage this group in volunteer efforts by establishing volunteer programs that will appeal to their generation. According to a Met Life Foundation study, Boomers are attracted to volunteer activities that allow them to learn new skills, activities that can be done without specialized experience or training, and activities that make use of their work skills.
Resources for engaging older adult volunteers:
- Encore Leadership Corps (ENCorps), this statewide program in Maine supports volunteers age 55 and older who are helping to improve the economic, environment and human health of their communities. ENCorps provides free educational workshops to its members to enhance their volunteer projects and efforts.
- The Retired and Senior Program (RSVP), this national program helps older adults find volunteer opportunities to assist fellow seniors in their community. This program offers a wide variety of activities for members based on their skills, time commitment and availability.
Helpful resources and related topics on aging and volunteering in Maine are provided at the end of the report.
How to Use
This report provides insight for individual community members, local governments and community leaders looking for ways to improve civic and community engagement among older adults. As this older adult population continues to grow, tapping the skills and expertise of this group to improve community issues will become even more important. Community leaders and local governments can use this report and the resources provided at the end to gain an understanding of the programs Maine has implemented to increase volunteer rates among older adults.