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Volunteer Corps Announced for Older Americans

April 18, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. commissioner on aging, Joyce Berry, called on older Americans Thursday to help each other by volunteering.

″There are seniors out there just waiting to be asked,″ Berry told a news conference at which she announced the establishment of the Eldercare Volunteer Corps., a $15-million effort to recruit and organize volunteer programs for the elderly.

″When senior citizens become involved as volunteers, they live healthier, longer lives,″ added former Michigan Gov. George W. Romney, who founded the National Center for Voluntary Action in 1974.

Berry said that senior volunteer programs across the nation involve about 500,000 people and will be incorporated into the Eldercare Volunteer Corps.

″It is time we formally recognized their contributions and shared commitment to improving the lives of our nation’s elderly,″ she said.

In addition to giving more recognition to current volunteers, the corps is expected to help recruit new people to give their time and skills, she added.

The announcement came at a news conference called by Marriott Senior Living Services, which released a survey of the attitudes of Americans aged 60 and over toward volunteerism.

Forty-one 41 percent of this group volunteered their services in some way in the last year, according to the survey of 962 people conducted in January and February. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, officials said.

That would mean 59 percent of older people did not volunteer, a pool of millions of people available to assist one another, said Brian Swinton of Marriott.

″Is there a pool waiting to serve? We think so,″ he said.

Swinton said his survey found that about 14 percent of older people are ″latent″ volunteers, meaning they are willing to volunteer their time if asked.

In addition, he said, 24 percent are ″conditional″ volunteers, meaning they would be willing to do volunteer work or help specific groups.

In many cases, communities have a need for volunteers, and people there are willing to do the jobs, but the problem occurs in bringing the two together.

It’s cases like that in which the new volunteer effort should help by improving the organization and public awareness of voluntary programs, officials said.

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