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May is Older Americans Month

In April 1963 President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizen month; 17 years later, President Jimmy Carter changed the name to Older Americans month. Each year there is a theme for the month of celebration.

This year, the theme is "Unleash the Power of Age," a reference to the vast resource older Americans are to their communities. The fact is, many community organizations rely on volunteers for a variety of functions, including providing direct services. The Corporation for Community Service has published a fact sheet(External Link) with some astounding statistics about volunteering. According to the publication, 18.7 million older adults - more than a quarter of those 55 and older - contributed on average more than three billion hours of service in their communities per year between 2008 and 2010.

From home-delivered meals to local libraries, chances are, if you spend any amount of time in your community you've come across an older volunteer. The benefits to the community are often obvious, according to New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen, but the benefits to the volunteers themselves are often overlooked.

"Not only does the community benefit from older volunteers, but the volunteers also receive a direct benefit. Studies have consistently shown that active volunteering lowers the likelihood for depression, increases life expectancy, and lowers the rate of heart disease and other chronic illness that can quickly lead to the need for costly and intensive medical services. Being a volunteer also helps promote active and healthy lifestyles while reducing isolation and improving friendships and enhancing community relationships," Olsen said.

In New York State, there are almost 700,000 older adults volunteers providing almost 49 million hours of service at an economic value of $1.3 billion annually. Senior Citizen's Day is celebrated on May 7 to recognize volunteers from every county who give of themselves to better the lives of those in their communities. NYSOFA has a special ceremony planned to honor nearly 100 older New Yorkers from across the state who have volunteered to make a difference in their community. You can read about some of those amazing people and their accomplishments.

In the meantime, thank an older New Yorker today. And if you are in the 55+ group, why not think about volunteering? The benefits to you-and your community-are enormous!

To learn more about how you can match your skills and talents with a local community need, please visit Getting Involved.