The New Year is a great time to catch our breath from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, remember what is most important to us and reconnect with our priorities. Many people make New Year’s Resolutions that ideally are related to our priorities and what’s truly important in our lives.
To my fellow Baby Boomers in our community, I have a suggestion for a 2017 New Year’s Resolution: “Volunteer 5 or more hours per week”. New Year’s resolutions to be successful need to be simple and attainable, and 5 hours per week is attainable if we put it in context of other activities that we spend many more hours per week doing like watching TV, checking Facebook, or watching the latest You Tube videos. So you may be asking, why the challenge to Boomers? As one myself, I believe all of us Baby Boomers have an incredible opportunity to have a big impact once again on our society as our generation has done over our lifetimes.
Every month in our Eastern Jackson County Community, 500 Boomers turn age 65, and this will continue for the next 12 years resulting in a doubling of the number of people over age 65 in our community. Some see this as a challenge; however, your Community Foundation sees it as a tremendous opportunity. What if we could create an environment that would enable many of us Boomers as we move into retirement years to utilize our talent and time as volunteers in our community? It would certainly be good for the organizations where we volunteer but studies show it will also be good for our own physical and mental health.
To gain a better understanding of the current environment we commissioned a research study, “A Study of Civic Engagement among Older Adults in Eastern Jackson County” that was conducted by the UMKC Consortium for Aging in Community. Here a few of the findings:
· Over 80% are currently volunteers
· Of the 20% who don’t volunteer, 75% have an interest in doing so
· 28% are volunteering 5 or more hours per week
· 45% volunteer but less than 4 hours per week
So, the good news is that the vast majority (80%) are already engaged as volunteers, and as they move into retirement will have more time to volunteer, particularly the 45% volunteering less than 4 hours a week. And those who are not currently volunteering, the vast majority (75%) have an interest in volunteering.
We also learned from the study that a large percentage of Boomers (40%) are providing some care for grandchildren. Yet caregiving was cited by only 7% as having a significant impact on their level of volunteering. One of the recommendations of the study is that we develop opportunities for intergenerational volunteering, or in other words volunteer opportunities that Boomers can do with their grandkids. Another recommendation is that we tap into their social networks and that a “nudge” or invitation from family or friends can have a big impact. We also learned from the study that 88% are online daily, and email is the most preferred method of learning about volunteer opportunities (51%). Other research that they reviewed during the study tells us that Boomers are looking for volunteer roles that take full advantage of their life experiences and unique skills. They also want flexible hours for volunteering and not feel tied down to a rigid schedule.
We are still unpacking everything we can learn from the study and have begun our work to develop a plan to create an environment that will unleash the talent and energy of boomers in our Eastern Jackson County Community. Stay tuned for updates on our journey in future columns, however, if you have ideas to share please let me know. OK Boomers, time to make that resolution and let us know how we can help you keep it.