Myth: All Peace Corps Volunteers are young

By Erin McGillivray
Dec. 2, 2019

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 that they wish they would’ve done Peace Corps when they were younger. Well, I have good news for you. It'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 to 2004 and a community health Volunteer in Ethiopia from 2012 to 2013.

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 Ph.D. 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 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 70s. If you haven’t caught on yet, there is no upper age limit to be eligible for Peace Corps service.

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, and more. Many of our host countries welcome and even ask for older, more experienced Volunteers to come and serve in their communities. In fact, a number of our program openings require several years of experience or a master’s degree – something many our younger applicants have not yet achieved.

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

Yes, language acquisition might be more challenging as we age and yes, it helps to be in good health. But do you know what? In many cultures, with age comes a higher level of respect. Older Americans come with a more specialized skill level, 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 many 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, this time 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 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-plus 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?

This blog was updated from its original version by Morgan Cunningham. Morgan served as an environment Volunteer in a small town in the Panama Canal Watershed from 2016 to 2018. She currently works at Peace Corps Headquarters in D.C. as a Placement Officer, sending volunteers to Guyana and Botswana. A water lover and proud dog mom, she lives with her pit-mix and pug near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Erin McGillivray