Myth: All Peace Corps Volunteers are young

By Erin McGillivray
June 10, 2015

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I always wanted to do the Peace Corps, but...”

“...but I got married and had kids.”

“...but I went back to school, instead.”

“...but two years felt like a long time when I was only 21.”

Or people tell me they didn’t feel financially secure enough to serve or that they wish they would’ve done Peace Corps when they were younger.

Well, I have good news for youIT’S NEVER TOO LATE!

There is no upper age limit to be eligible for Peace Corps service.
Danna Hering (2nd row, 2nd from left) served as a Small Business Development Volunteer in Kenya from 2000-2004 and a Community Health Volunteer in Ethiopia from 2012-13.

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, my fellow Volunteer friends Chuck and Marcia both celebrated 80th birthdays during service. They had each earned a PhD and served in the Peace Corps previously as a married couple. Danna, my best Volunteer friend, was my mom’s age. For her 50th birthday, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (no big deal, right?!). My training class included people in their 70s, 50s, 40s and 30s.

If you haven’t caught on yet, there is no upper age limit to be eligible for Peace Corps service. As of November 2014, seven percent of PCVs were ages 50 and older, and the average age of a Peace Corps Volunteer was 28.

It's never too late to serve.
It's never too late to serve.

Seven percent may not sound like a large number, but that's exactly why I want to dispel the myth that all Peace Corps Volunteers are young. The second of Peace Corps’ three goals is to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. In an effort to truly represent the diversity of America, we want our Volunteers to range in age as well as experience, religion, race, sexual orientation, marital status, etc. Many of our host countries welcome and hope for older, more experienced Volunteers to come and serve with them. In fact, a number of our program openings require several years of experience or a master’s degree – something our younger applicants have not yet achieved.

Yes, language acquisition might be more challenging as we age and yes, it helps to be in good health. But you know what? In many cultures, with age comes a higher level of respect. And with age comes a more specialized skill level, street cred, maturity, resilience and perspective. Serving as an older Volunteer is not only a benefit to your host community members, but also to your fellow Peace Corps Volunteers.

I remember observing my fellow older Volunteers and thinking, “Wow, his projects are really effective because of his years of working in Silicon Valley” or “I hope I have her energy level and adventurous spirit when I’m 60!” They’ve inspired me to consider serving in the Peace Corps again later in life.

So maybe you did get married and have kids; maybe you did go back to school; maybe you have gotten older. All (or any!) of these things have added to your life experience, likely making you a more competitive candidate for Peace Corps service.

Still not convinced? Find a recruiter in your area and ask him or her to connect you with someone who served as an older Volunteer, peruse blogs related to serving after age 50 and be sure to check out this section of the website dedicated to those who wish to serve later in life, as well as this video highlighting the 50+ Volunteer experience.

Remember – it’s never too late. It’s your turn to inspire your own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews.  What are you waiting for?

Did you serve later in life or know someone who did?  What’s your story?

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.

Erin McGillivray

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