Below is a list of resources with information on civic engagement in an older America. This list has six sections, each that features a different type of resource:

(1) Federal legislation
(2) Other initiatives related to civic engagement and aging
(3) Research and agency reports
(4) Books
(5) News media
(6) Scholarly publications



Congress Supports Older Adults’ Civic Engagement in Reauthorization of the OAA

On October 17, 2006, President Bush signed into law the five-year reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The new law includes several areas of expansion, including provisions for recognizing and supporting older adults’ community contributions.

          *Bill Text for the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006 (H.R. 6197).

          *Document containing excerpts related to the new civic engagement provisions.

          *Gateway to the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006 (2007)


The National Academy on an Aging Society is not alone in focusing attention on older adult civic engagement. (Click here for information about the Academy's "Civic Engagement in an Older America" Initiative.) Listed below are descriptions of other organizations' civic engagement initiatives, as well as links to their websites. (Click here for a list and description of other projects relating to older adults' civic engagement that are funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies).

Initiatives that focus on civic engagement among older adults specifically:

* American Society on Aging's Civic Engagement Program: The American Society on Aging is an organization that brings together a multidisciplinary network of professionals, including practitioners, teachers, administrators, policymakers, business people, researchers, students, and more. The Society's Civic Engagement Program strives to advance discussion of civic engagement within the field of aging and to foster best practices for professionals that relate to older adults as a social and economic asset for the benefit of society.

* Civic Ventures: Civic Ventures is a non-profit think tank with the purpose of helping society to draw on individuals’ accumulated life experience to enhance individual and societal well-being. Civic Ventures oversees several programs directly related to older adults' civic engagement, including Experience Corps (a national volunteer organization that places adults ages 55 and older in community schools and youth-focused organizations) and the Purpose Prize (a sizeable monetary award to recognize individuals ages 60 and older who are working toward addressing critical social problems).

* Harvard School of Public Health—MetLife Foundation's Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement: Harvard University's Center for Health Communications and the MetLife Foundation are organizing leading individuals and organizations in a "national campaign to change public attitudes toward aging and to encourage baby boomers and retirees to engage in community service."

* The National Council on Aging's RespectAbility Project: The National Council on Aging connects thousands of organizations and individuals "dedicated to improving the health and independence of older persons and increasing their continuing contributions to communities, society, and future generations." The organization's RespectAbility project aims to raise awareness about older adults as an untapped civic resource and to help non-profit organizations utilize older adults in addressing major community problems.

* Troops to Teachers: A Model Pathway to a Second Tour of Duty: Troops to Teachers helps those with at least ten years of military service transition to careers in public school teaching and administration. Since 1994, the program has trained and placed 9,500 veterans in the classrooms where they are needed most.

* The Urban Institute's Retirement Project: The Urban Institute is a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization. The organization's Retirement Project focuses on assessing how retirement policies, demographic conditions, and private sector practices influence older Americans. The project includes several briefs on civic engagement among older adults.

Initiatives that focus on civic engagement among individuals of all ages:

* Center for Social Development (George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis): The Center for Social Development is a leading academic center dedicated to promoting the assets of individuals, families, and communities. One cluster of research activities at the Center focuses on civic service across the lifespan.

* The Brookings Institution's Research on Service, Civic Engagement and Citizenship: The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization that fosters independent research and makes recommendations for decision-makers worldwide. The Institution has pooled together research material, legislation, surveys, reports, and public discourse on volunteer service initiatives, civic engagement, and civil institutions.

* Nonprofit Sector Knowledge Base Project: This multi-year initiative that began in 1997 aims to build a body of high quality data and knowledge about the voluntary sector, its organizations, and social contributions of Canadians. Its activities include a review of existing data resources, studies to identify the giving of volunteers and charitable donors, launching new surveys and case studies, and strengthening conceptual frameworks to advance understanding of the voluntary domain.

* Pew Partnership for Civic Change: This organization focuses broadly on supporting communities, governments, foundations, and nonprofit agencies to develop and implement strategies to make communities stronger.

* The Saguaro Seminar: This initiative, led by Professor Robert Putnam at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, seeks to advance understanding of trust and community engagement with the goal of developing strategies and efforts to increase this engagement.



Reports that focus on civic engagement among older adults specifically:

* Active Ageing in Active Communities: Volunteering and the Transition to Retirement (2005): The United Kingdom's Joseph Rowntree Foundation presents results from a study on how to support older adults’ volunteer activities. The study is based on case studies of several organizations that involve older adults, in-depth interviews with older adult volunteers, and interviews with leaders in the field of older adult volunteering.

* Are You Experienced? How Boomers Can Help Our Government Meet Its Talent Needs (2007): As millions of baby boomers begin to retire, our federal government, the nation’s largest employer, will be especially hard hit. One solution is to look toward other retiring boomers to fill these positions-- a win-win situation for older Americans, who would find meaningful opportunities to use their talents and experience, and for the federal government, which would gain highly skilled talent to help solve our nation’s most pressing problems.

* Baby Boomers and the New Age of Volunteerism (2001): The Corporation for National Service presents insights from focus groups in developing an organizational infrastructure to recruit upcoming senior volunteers from the baby boom generation.

* Baby Boomers and Volunteering: An Analysis of the Current Population Survey (2005): The Corporation for National and Community Service and the USA Freedom Corps present results from analyses of 2002 - 2004 Current Population Survey data to estimate rates of community service among baby boomers.

* Baby Boomers Envision Their Retirement II: Survey of Baby Boomers' Expectations for Retirement (2004): AARP conducted this national survey of adults ages 38 to 57 in 2003. Findings emphasize how knowledge about and attitudes toward retirement have changed among baby boomers over the past five years.

* Boomers and National Service: Learning from the Success of Youth Service:
(The Commission on) National and Community Service, a grassroots youth service movement, originally included proposals for an older adult service, which were later dropped. This unfinished business calls to be revisited, as millions of public-minded older Americans stand at the brink of retirement, ready to engage in tackling our nation’s most difficult social challenges.

* Boomers Are Ready for Nonprofits, But Are Nonprofits Ready for Them? (2007): Evidence suggests that non-profits are seriously lagging behind the government and private sectors in efforts to both retain highly skilled potential retirees and actively recruit older hires from other industry sectors. The report describes some best practices underway in the nonprofit sector, as well as an overview of private and public sector responses.

* Boomnet: Capturing the Baby Boomer Volunteers (2001): Team Consultants, an organization in Australia, conducted focus groups and interviews with organizations that use volunteers, as well as a diverse sample of adults, to understand Australian baby boomers’ motivations to volunteer in later life and to develop a strategy to foster baby boomers’ volunteering.

* Breakthrough Awards (2007): The BreakThrough Awards, sponsored by think tank Civic Ventures, shine a spotlight on the nonprofit and public sector organizations that are providing meaningful public interest jobs for people over 50. This report includes profiles of the 10 winners of the 2007 BreakThrough Awards.

* Broken Engagement: America's Civic Health Index (2006): This report by the National Conference on Citizenship—a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1946—uses several sources of U.S. national data (such as the Census Current Population Survey and the General Social Survey) to track Americans' civic health from 1975 to 2005, including rates of participation in civic and religious groups, feelings of trust in other people, giving and volunteering, and participating in politics.

* CharityChannel's E-Newsletter "Volunteer Management Review" (ongoing): A series of articles addresses the challenges and opportunities of focusing volunteer opportunities toward older adults.

* Civic Engagement in an Older America: Focus Groups Full Report (2005): The Gerontological Society of America conducted focus groups with older adults in three age cohorts: leading-edge boomers (50-59 year-olds), 60-69 year-olds, and adults ages 70 and older. The report focuses on participants' definitions of civic engagement, their views on the purpose of later life, their current civic engagement activities, and barriers to becoming civically engaged. The report also discusses the policy and practice implications of these findings.

* Engaging Older Volunteers in After-School Programs (2002): Civic Ventures presents this report on the potential value of older adults as volunteers in after-school programs, focusing on volunteers' motivations, highlighting research on the benefits of older volunteers' participation for various parties, and offering suggestions for recruiting, training, and supporting older volunteers.

* Expanding the Boundaries of Corporate Volunteerism: Retirees as a Valuable Resource (2005): Volunteers of America and the Center of Corporate Citizenship at Boston College present results regarding employers’ and employees’ attitudes toward employee volunteer programs directed toward retirees and older workers. Findings are based on interviews with corporate managers, as well as focus groups and surveys of employees and retirees.

* The Future of Retirement: the New Old Age (2007): This report by HSBC examines how increasing health levels and new family structures change the way that older people can make a contribution to society in terms of paid work, voluntary work and family care.

* Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering (2007): The Corporation for National and Community Service reports that Baby Boomers today have the highest volunteer rate of any age group and volunteer at higher rates than did past generations of the same age category. Using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study concluded that the type of volunteer work Baby Boomers do has a big impact on whether they continue to volunteer over time. Retention from the first year of volunteering to the second year is highest when they're involved in professional or management activities.

* The Giving Years: Engaging the Time, Talent, and Experience of Older Californians in Intergenerational Service (2001): GoServ, an agency under the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism in California, presents results from surveys, focus groups, and forums with older adult volunteers and representatives from senior services programs, schools, and other organizations. The report includes recommendations for state provisions that could foster older adults' service to community.

* Marketing Volunteer Opportunities to Baby Boomers (2001): The Center on Aging at the University of Maryland released this report on insights gathered from participants in the Corporation for National Service Senior Corps Cluster conferences held throughout the U.S. in 2001. The report outlines ideas for marketing volunteer opportunities to baby boomers as a framework to help community organizations with their own planning.

* Meaningful Service and Employment of Older Adults (2004): The AdvantAge Initiative presents results from telephone surveys and focus groups with a diverse group of older adults in Orange Country, California, to identify barriers and opportunities regarding volunteerism and paid work. Themes from interviews with volunteer, employment, and longterm care providers are also presented.

* The New Face of Retirement: An Ongoing Survey of American Attitudes on Retirement (2002, 1999): Civic Ventures conducted cross-sectional national surveys in 1999 and 2002 to examine the attitudes of adults ages 50 to 75 toward continuing to contribute to society in their retirement.

* New Face of Work Survey (2005): The Metlife Foundation and Civic Ventures Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted this survey of 1,000 U.S. adults in their 50s and 60s, asking them about what type of work they hope to do in the future and what they seek to accomplish through this work.

* New Federal Report Shows Volunteering Strong in America, But 1 in 3 Volunteers Dropped Out in 2006
(2007): While volunteering remains at historically high levels compared to past decades, the volunteer rate declined between 2005 and 2006. The report includes a new Civic Life Index, which uses 12 indicators to gauge state levels of community and civic engagement over time.

* Older Adults' Engagement Should Be Recognized (2005): Using data from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study, researchers at the Urban Institute profile the percent of adults ages 55 and older involved in productive activities (paid work, formal volunteering, informal volunteering, family caregiving).

* Political Behavior and Values Across the Generations (2004): AARP reports findings from a 2004 survey of three cohorts of U.S. adults: baby boomers (ages 40 to 57), the “silent” generation (ages 58 to 69), and the “GI” generation (ages 70+). The survey emphasizes attitudes toward social, ethical, and economic issues, political participation, beliefs about the role and priorities of government, and activism and civic involvement.

* Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement (2004): This report from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Metlife Foundation focuses on key ways that the government, nonprofit organizations, business, philanthropy, faith-based institutions, and the media can encourage retirees to volunteer.

* Recasting Retirement: New Perspectives on Aging and Civic Engagement (2002): Civic Ventures conducted focus groups with a diverse group of retirees in San Diego, Chicago, and Danbury, Connecticut. The study focused on how participants are experiencing retirement and what role language, concepts, and programs can play in attracting retired adults to public service.

* RespectAbility Web Survey: Executive Summary (2005): This report presents results from a web-based survey of executive directors, program directors, and volunteer coordinators of 20 U.S. national nonprofit organizations regarding the extent to which older adult volunteers and workers are part of their operations.

* Rewards of Giving: An In-Depth Study of Older Adults' Volunteer Experiences in Urban Elementary Schools (2006): Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit U.S. national research and policy organization, presents results from in-depth interviews with Experience Corps members--a national service program that facilitates older adults’ volunteering with school-aged children. Results highlight older adults’ motivations to serve, challenges and rewards of service, and perceived support for their volunteer work.

* Satisfaction and Engagement in Retirement (2005): Using data from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study, researchers from the Urban Institute examine the extent to which different profiles of productive activity are associated with levels of retirement satisfaction.

* Senior Volunteers: Solutions Waiting to Happen (2003): The Executive Director of the leading volunteer agency in the United Kingdom explores many facets of older adults’ volunteering, from what type of activities they are most likely to be interested in to efforts across government to support older adults’ community service.

* Sixty and More: Staying Involved and Making a Difference (2007): From the Princeton Area Community Foundation, the aim of this report was to develop a knowledge base about organizations, programs, services, and strategies for actively engaging adults 60 and older in the community of Mercer County, NJ.

* The Strength of the Infrastructure of Volunteer Agencies and Its Capacity to Absorb Baby Boomer Volunteers (2003): The Points of Light Foundation and the Volunteer Center National Network summarize data on rates of formal and informal volunteering in the U.S., including rates among men and women and among baby boomers. This report also provides a comprehensive discussion of why engaging baby boomers as volunteers is important, as well as models for successfully doing so.

* A Tale of Two Older Americas: Community Opportunities and Challenges (2004): The AdvantAge Initiative presents results from its national survey of adults ages 65+. Authors emphasize the consistently lower levels of well-being and civic engagement among the "frail few"--adults with an income 200% below the poverty line, with less than a high school education, and/or who rate their health as fair or poor.

* Time and Money: An In-Depth Look at 45+ Volunteers and Donors (2003): AARP conducted this 2003 national survey of U.S. adults ages 45+ to estimate how much adults contribute through community service and charitable giving, as well as through what they do independently and in their communities for relatives and other people. The report presents how these behaviors differ by racial/ethnic groups.

* Upsizing Community Investment: Building a Successful Retiree Volunteer Program (2001): This report from Volunteer Benevoles Canada and Manulife Financial highlights how companies can jumpstart volunteer programs for retirees, from identifying the goals of the program to partnering with other community organizations.

* Volunteer Connections: New Strategies for Involving Older Adults (2001): Volunteer Canada presents this report summarizing ideas about how to effectively engage baby boomers in later life volunteering, while highlighting the volunteer management implications of these ideas.

* Volunteering Produces Health Benefits (2007): According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, older Americans who volunteer receive significant physical and mental health benefits for their charitable efforts, including added years to their lives. This study compiles compelling findings from more than 30 scientific studies that examine the relationship between health and volunteering.

* 50+ Volunteering: Working for Stronger Communities (2004): The Points of Light Foundation's report presents a case for the importance of older adults' social contributions and highlights innovative programs, models, and strategies for sustaining older adults' volunteer activities.

Reports that focus on civic engagement across diverse age groups:

* Canada 25, Canadians & the Common Good: Building a Civic Nation through Civic Engagement (2007): This major policy report from the non-profit think tank Canada 25 proposes ideas to help foster a more assertive and socially connected Canada through civic engagement. The report takes into account feelings of detachment felt by Canadian citizens toward their country and brainstorms ideas for Canada to develop a stronger presence in the world. Proposals include: investing in common areas for community building and socialization, enhancing political engagement through creating informed voters, aiding nonprofits, and celebrating Canadian citizens and residents through coming-of-age ceremonies.

* Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement (2007): In this report, Dr. Cynthia Gibson addresses modern American's sentiments of helplessness in their ability to partake in societal change (in this report commissioned by the Case Foundation). Gibson's theory of a "citizen centered" approach for civic engagement encourages the identification and solving of problems that matter to the individual, and backs away from traditional service—such as voting and volunteering—that does little to satisfy the drive to "make a difference." The report gives ideas on how to booster citizen-centered approaches to civic engagement, including: institutions offering volunteer opportunities, reaching out to younger generations, and using technology to connect volunteers and opportunities.

* The Charitable Impulse (2005): This report presents findings from a study by the Public Agenda for the Kettering Foundation. The organization held six in-depth focus groups with civically engaged adults (i.e., individuals who voted in the last election, contributed at least $300 to charitable organizations in the past year, volunteered at least once in the past year, and who were a member of a civic group). Focus group questions covered a range of subjects about charitable organizations and perceptions of the environment in which they currently work. The organization also interviewed 15 philanthropic leaders on their perspectives on the public's attitude toward their work, their own views of the independent sector, as well as strategies to improve accountability and transparency across the independent sector.

* Democracy at Risk: Renewing the Political Science of Citizenship (2004): This document is the major report of the Political Science Association’s Standing Committee on Civic Education and Engagement. The work explores how institutions and public polices influence patterns of civic engagement.

* Family Volunteering: A Discussion Paper (2002): Volunteer Benevoles Canada provides an overview of family volunteering as an innovative type of volunteering in which entire families participate in volunteer activities together.

* Fostering a More Active Citizenry: Philanthropy’s Role in a Civic Reawakening (2005): This report presents specific recommendations to PACE—Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement—to help inspire civic renewal in the U.S.

* Making a Business Case for Employer-Supported Volunteerism (2004): This report from Volunteer Benevoles Canada, the Canada Volunteerism Initiative, and the Government of Canada provides an overview of employer-supported volunteering—an arrangement in which a company voluntarily supports its employees’ involvement in the community.

* Measuring Volunteering (2007): A thought-provoking report from the Points of Light Foundation finds that a behavioral, as opposed to a perceptual, approach of gathering statistics on volunteering may be more accurate than current U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics methods. Michael Hall of Imagine Canada uses two data retrieving methods that classify more people as "volunteers" and logs more hours of volunteering among those civically involved: the behavioral approach, which prompts people's memories in civic engagement involvement, and clearly defines "volunteering" -- actions spent freely and without pay -- to survey and questionnaire respondents. Also recommended in the study is the use of standardized methodology and taking precautions to avoid bias which may overestimate the population of volunteers.

* A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America and What We Can Do About It (1998): The National Commission on Civic Renewal outlines its goals related to enhancing the quality of citizenship and civic life.

* The Nonprofit Sector’s Leadership Deficit (2006): The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit organization that supports the efforts of other nonprofit organizations, presents research highlighting the need for more senior leadership among nonprofit organizations. The group’s research also highlights essays from several perspectives on how to address this problem.

* Rethinking Volunteer Engagement: International Year of Volunteers, 2001 (2001): This report from Volunteer Benevoles Canada and the Government of Canada provides an overview of the importance of contemporary volunteering and discusses innovations in volunteer programs at both national and local levels.

* Smart Communities: Civic Change in Your Community and Beyond (on-going): The Pew Partnership presents its Smart Communities blog. A new entry is added to this community bulletin daily that features information on an innovative community development initiative.

* Value of Unpaid Activities by Older Americans Tops $160 Billion per Year (2005): Using data from the 2002 Health and Retirement Study, researchers at the Urban Institute estimate the value of unpaid activities (formal volunteer activities, informal volunteering. and caring for family members) by Americans age 55 and older.

* Virtual Volunteering: Current Status and Future Prospects (2002): Volunteer Benevoles Canada and the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy present results from their study on managers, volunteers, and prospective volunteers’ virtual volunteering—a type of volunteering in which the volunteer is not physically present at the organization’s host site.

* Volunteer Management Capacity in America's Charities and Congregations (2004): The Urban Institute co-conducted a survey of U.S. charities and congregations regarding the use of volunteers in their operations.

* Volunteerism and Development (2003): The United Nations Development Programme discusses the social and economic benefits of volunteerism, in part by highlighting the volunteer efforts of individuals and organizations across the world.



* Civic Engagement in an Older America (2010; Editors: Greg O'Neill and Sarah F. Wilson)
The Gerontological Society of America (GSA)'s civic engagement project, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, has released a capstone publication that highlights and advances research on civic engagement in later life by bringing together "classic" articles previously published in GSA's journals with new articles that review the state-of-the-science to date for a particular area of civic engagement, identify research gaps, and provide direction for future research. The introductory chapter, "The Civic Enterprise: Advancing Civic Engagement Opportunities in Later Life", is available for free. Find out how to purchase the book or request a desk copy.

* Encore (2007; Author: Marc Freedman)
Baby boomers are inventing a new stage of work. As their numbers swell, these individuals are transforming work itself— and creating a society that works better for everyone. Marc Freedman tells the stories of encore career pioneers who are opting to work, not retire, but to work in new ways, on new terms and to new ends. See

* Civic Engagement and the Baby Boomer Generation (2006; Editors: Laura Wilson and Sharon Simson)
Contributing scholars with diverse areas of expertise—from policy analysis to epidemiology to program evaluation to social gerontology—weigh in on why engaging baby boomers in civic life is crucial for the well-being of individuals of all ages, as well as for the well-being of society overall. The book provides comprehensive descriptions of major national programs that facilitate older adults’ civic engagement, while also providing evidence of the programs’ effectiveness and ways in which they can be improved.

* Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America (1999; Author: Marc Freedman)
This book marks one of the first, yet still widely read and cited, formal calls for mobilizing older adults' community contributions. Substantively, the book covers a range of topics related to older adults' civic engagement-- from the history of retirement as an institution to the development (or lack thereof) of federal support for senior volunteer programs. Sprinkled throughout are poignant vignettes of social entrepreneurship in later life and in-depth examples of innovative programs that facilitate older adults' service, which make this book as informative as it is readable.



The American Society on Aging and Civic Ventures each host web pages listing recent news media sources (e.g., newspaper articles, magazine feature sections, segments of radio newscasts) related to older adults' civic engagement . Refer to the links below:

* American Society on Aging:

* Civic Ventures:



Below are links to descriptions of scholarly articles on civic engagement and aging. These articles were published between January 1999 and July 2006 and can be found in The Gerontologist, The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, or The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

* Caregiving
* Community Service and Volunteering
* Multiple Roles
* Paid Work
* Political Participation
* Voluntary Group Participation
* Miscellaneous

Know of a resource on civic engagement and aging that should be added to this website? Please let the National Academy on an Aging Society know about it (

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