Years ago, the word retirement might have evoked images of white-haired couples sitting in rocking chairs on their front porches. But with men and women living longer and enjoying better health into their later years, retirement has become an extremely active phase of life where retirees are able to channel their passions into purpose.
The first wave of “Baby boomers” turned 65 in 2011 and today, approximately 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day in America, and will continue to retire for two decades. Those retiring boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are an army of talent with experience, expertise, passion and for the first time ever … time.
Springfield, like any other community, has a large and growing need for skilled volunteers and volunteer leadership – at non-profits and charities, at schools and learning institutions and in public service roles. In a recently community study, Drury University determined that Springfield-area non-profit organizations are in need of an additional 8,000 volunteers.
Volunteering (especially among boomers and older people) can increase energy, decrease depression, lessen isolation and even lower the mortality rate. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warns that the greatest public health threat for this group of Americans is not what most people might expect – it’s not heart disease or cancer – it’s isolation and the effects from being socially disconnected.
Less than a third of boomers, however, volunteer. A key reason that many boomers don’t volunteer is they haven’t found ways in which they can volunteer the way they want to, putting their talents and skills to use.
While many retiring and retired boomers aren’t aware of the wide variety of volunteer opportunities available in Springfield, many organizations needing volunteers are also not prepared for the army of skilled retirees on the horizon. City Manager Greg Burris recognized that the Springfield needs a program that connects these two needs and has created it: Give 5.
The proposed Give 5 program aims to connect boomers and other retirees with residents and organizations in most need of their assistance, addressing the needs to inform, inspire and connect individuals. The Give 5 name refers to the fact that organizers hope that program graduates will pledge to volunteer at least five hours per month.
Following on the heels of the successful Missouri State University Staff Ambassador (USA) program and the City of Springfield’s City Ambassador Program (CAmP) he created, Burris has launched Give 5 to allow interested retirees to …
- “Taste test” a wide variety of volunteer opportunities
- Find a role that matches their passion
- Benefit the community.
“Federal and state funding for non-profit organizations continues to recede, leaving more and more non-profits in need of volunteers and philanthropic giving to accomplish their missions of helping “the least of these” in our community,” Burris explains. Give 5 volunteer opportunities center around non-profits in Springfield that address issues identified in the City’s Community Listen / Zone Blitz initiative and in the Impacting Poverty Commission’s report to the community.
He hopes that the program will do more than pair up volunteers with organizations, however. It’s also an opportunity to improve Springfield’s “bridging: social capital. Social capital refers to the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.
“MSU’s Social Capital Survey revealed that Springfield and Greene County have higher than average bonding social capital, but lower-than-average bridging social capital. We’re hoping that this becomes an opportunity for people to get to know new people and have new experiences, all while helping out the community.” Bridging social capital refers to the ties between individuals who cross social divides or between different social groups. Bonding capital refers to the ties between individuals with like groups of people.
Baby boomers are known for having a strong work ethic and Burris believes that retiring may be difficult for a group that largely gains their purpose in life from their jobs. Give 5 is designed to help individuals explore what next steps they can take to “rewire and refire” rather than just retire.
Our target individual participants are newly retired people from Greene County who have shown an interest in helping others, but who are relatively unaware of the variety of volunteer opportunities.
Our target organizational participants are ones who are aligned with the initiatives and community needs identified in the Impacting Poverty Commission Report and/or Zone Blitz and have the capacity to effectively welcome and utilize skilled volunteers.
Give 5 will …
- Create an avenue for the army of retirees in our community to channel their energy and skills
- Allow organizations who need volunteers to have access to a focused group of potential volunteers
- Develop graduates who are more committed citizens of Springfield and who are better able to serve the community through awareness and understanding
- Follow up on the work of the Zone Blitz and align with the goals of Prosper Springfield.
For more information about Give 5, or to sign up for the program, visit springfieldmo.gov/give5.