December 13, 2005
Campaign calls on boomers to volunteer
Generation is asked to give
By Janet Kornblum
WASHINGTON -- As the first wave of baby boomers hits their 60s, the Corporation for National and Community Service is casting a wide net to urge these soon-to-be retirees to give back to their communities by volunteering.
At the White House Conference on Aging here Monday, the government-financed organization announced that a multi-year public service ad campaign would launch in January with six months of print, TV, radio and Internet ads.
Two other groups, the Harvard School of Public Health and the non-profit Civic Ventures, also have announced initiatives aimed at getting boomers to volunteer.
Baby boomers -- those Americans who were born from 1946 to 1964 -- make up 28% of the U.S. population, and the oldest boomers begin turning 60 on Jan. 1. As a generation, boomers are better educated and are expected to live longer than any other generation before them, demographers say.
"We will find ourselves with more free time than we've had in our lives," says Ken Dychtwald, a market researcher and author in San Francisco who spoke at the conference. "But what will we do with our free time? What do we do with all that we know, all that we've learned, all that we feel?"
The campaign is aimed at appealing to boomers who grew up in the age of John F. Kennedy, who called their generation to service. The ads point to a website, Getinvolved.gov, which matches volunteers up with local opportunities.
"What goes around comes around," says volunteer Ray Wright, 52, of Detroit, who is featured in the campaign. He works with Communities in Schools, which helps at-risk students, and says he was helped by several non-profits when he was younger.
"The purpose of mankind is to serve mankind. If you're not doing that, you're not the answer; you're the problem," Wright says.
Many boomers who have had active careers will want to volunteer when they retire, says Jay Winsten, director of the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health. Its separate campaign, also beginning Jan. 1, will urge boomers to become mentors.
"I don't think it's a question of why boomers should do it," Winsten says. "They want to stay engaged. Volunteering gives them a way to keep an oar in and to be movers and shakers in a new way."
Harvard's program includes public service announcements; a contest with Parade magazine to name the age range, from about 60 to 80, between retirement and old age; and a collaboration with Hollywood to use plotlines that involve boomer volunteerism.
People once retired at about 65, spent a few years playing golf, watching TV or traveling and then died, says Marc Freedman, CEO of San Francisco-based Civic Ventures. The non-profit organization runs several programs aimed at using older Americans to help solve social problems.
Civic Ventures also is in the midst of a campaign aimed at encouraging boomers to volunteer. It will award five $100,000 "Purpose Prizes" for Americans over 60 "who are using their life experience and creativity to transform our nation and defy expectations for the second half of life." Nominations are being accepted through the end of February; more information can be found at LeadWithExperience.org.