"Unleash the power of age" is this year's theme for May as Older Americans Month, a time when communities across the country celebrate the contributions and achievements of older Americans. Our communities have been shaped by the hard work of individuals who have raised families, provided civic leadership and been dedicated workers helping to build our local economy. Older Americans have made a significant contribution to the quality of life we enjoy.
Current trends show that people older than 60 account for an ever-growing percentage of participants in community service. In fact, a 2010 AARP survey of baby boomers turning 65 indicated that the majority of those surveyed planned to increase their volunteerism.
Sharing your talents, skills and interests in helping the community also is good for you! For older adults, the health benefits of volunteering have been well documented by research. Studies repeatedly have found that volunteering leads to improved physical and mental health. In fact, it only takes about 100 hours per year - or about two hours a week - to receive the health benefits from volunteering.
In 2011, United Way RSVP of Marathon County began providing services to support the increasing number of adults ages 55-plus in our community interested in volunteering. Through a federal grant from the Corporation for National Community Service, United Way RSVP provides a comprehensive volunteer service program that includes individualized placement and support to help people match their passion, interests and skills with community needs.
The RSVP program services are free to anyone 55 or older who currently is volunteering or would like help to get started. The program provides supplemental accident insurance, volunteer liability and auto liability insurance, and mileage reimbursement if needed while volunteering. Monthly coffee hours, educational events and a monthly newsletter enhance the volunteer experience. At the annual volunteer appreciation luncheon, RSVP members who qualify receive the President's Volunteer Service Award.
In 2012, 179 RSVP members volunteered more than 21,000 hours at 37 nonprofit organizations, providing an economic value of more than $388,000 of service to our community.
As we celebrate May as Older Americans Month, please take a minute to say thank you and recognize the service that older Americans have provided and continue to provide to help build a better community.
If you or someone you know is 55-plus and is currently volunteering or would like to, contact United Way RSVP at 715-848-2927 or on the Web at www.unitedwaymc.org.