Volunteering at 50-Plus
It's never too late to be a Volunteer
If you are a U.S. citizen and at a point in life where you are considering leaving the workforce, thinking about retirement, or excited to make a change—and a difference—the Peace Corps is worth making part of your plans. You can even serve with your spouse or partner.
I love sharing my story about being a Peace Corps Volunteer, especially with people who say, "I wanted to do that when I was in college, but my parents wouldn’t let me go, and I’m too old now." I turned 80 during my service.Dorothy Woodbridge, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Ghana, 2009–11
In the Peace Corps, your lifelong learning and professional experience will be an asset in your host country to both your community members and your fellow Volunteers. Use your skills to help a community learn about business or technology, inspire a new generation in the classroom, or transfer your love for sports or a hobby into a youth development program. As you share your expertise, you can learn about a new culture and be embraced by a community that values your experience.
Depending on the Volunteer program you choose, your service can last from three months to two years. You can even choose what country you want to serve in, the type of work you do, and when you depart. Serving as a Volunteer is a big decision at any age, though older Volunteers may have concerns about significant life issues involving insurance, health, managing personal assets, and maintaining family ties while serving.
Because every Volunteer experience is different, it's important to talk to a recruiter and keep the following in mind:
- As an older adult, your health, medical needs, and the services available in a host country will be a consideration. Before you apply, review important medical information for applicants to learn about medical conditions that cannot be supported during Peace Corps service. There is a Peace Corps medical officer in-country to assist you in protecting and maintaining your health, and to provide primary care as needed. If a medical condition should arise that requires a level of care not available in the country of assignment, medical evacuation to another country or to the U.S. will be arranged.
- Technology has changed how Volunteers stay in touch with family and friends (link) while abroad giving them more options: 92 percent of Volunteers have cellphone service and 50 percent have daily access to the internet where they live. Check out the Peace Corps 50+ Facebook group for more information.
- Some older Volunteers assign power of attorney to someone in the U.S. to help with their financial affairs.
- Initial challenges that older Volunteers might face include adapting to a role that may lack of structure, developing strategies for language learning in pre-service training, less input in your housing choices, and less freedom of movement.
- Older Volunteers may find their age an asset in their host country. On the other hand, an older Volunteer may be the only older person in a Volunteer group.
I joined the Peace Corps when I was 56 years old, and it was like having a second life. I enjoyed my work in the United States very much, but as I got older, I began to think less about "me" and more about "we." I loved working for the Peace Corps; I felt like I did something for the world, for the planet.Diana Gomez, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Armenia