Peace Corps Celebrates Older Americans Month
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 15, 2008 - Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter announced the agency's commemoration of older Peace Corps Volunteers during Older Americans Month, which continues throughout the month of May. Attracting and retaining older Americans to serve in the Peace Corps has been one of Director Tschetters main initiatives, formally launched in September of 2007. Today, six percent of Peace Corps' currently serving Volunteers are aged 50 or older.
"Older Volunteers are a tremendous asset to the Peace Corps, bringing both their professional and life experiences to help countries around the world meet their development needs. I am pleased that Baby Boomers are serving in 67 of our 74 Peace Corps countries," said Director Tschetter. "It is a pleasure to honor them during Older Americans Month."
Established in 1963, Older Americans Month was created to acknowledge the hardships of the elderly and to pay tribute to their efforts and labor. Originating from a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens, "Senior Citizens Month" was later relabeled "Older Americans Month" by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. This year's theme, Working Together for Strong, Healthy and Supportive Communities, identifies the significance of creating and fostering partnerships to ensure that older Americans are able to live with dignity and independence.
Presently, 44 million Americans are age 60 or older and four million are 85 years or older. More than four million Americans age 65 and older are still employed. In 1965, the Older Americans Act was passed in order to provide proper care for the elderly by providing special services and opportunities for older Americans and their families.
Here are some examples of how older Peace Corps Volunteers are using their skills and knowledge to make across the globe:
- In Georgia, Lisa and Mark Lebowitz are serving as education and small business advisors. Lisa, 57, has been working to address women's health issues and developed the Ecology Club which incorporates community members to identify and solve ecological problems. Mark, 60, has become an advisor for the Youth Bank, a group of young Georgians who develop and implement various community development projects. He also works on improving microfinance organizations for small businesses.
- At 56 years of age, Neal Hansen served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Slovak Republic with his wife Judy from 1998-2000. As a senior business advisor, his service centered around a regional business information center where he advised small and medium enterprises. Neal claims his experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in his 50s changed him in profound ways. "It gave me the skills to use a foreign language and live in a foreign country," he said. "It helped me develop confidence to deal with challenges outside my comfort zone. It changed how I view travel and what are the necessities of life. It gave me a broader view of the world."
- Currently serving in South Africa, Dorothea Beasley, 75, is working on a teacher training program in a local primary school. As a grandmother of 10 and a great-grandmother of 11, Dorothea feels that her age has had an impact on those she works with, especially since people in her village usually do not live beyond age 50. Dorothea has also learned from her time in service. She remarked that even though she finds it "sometimes baffling," she adds with humor that "I have become 'the expert' on the computer and copy machine."
The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are more than 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.