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It's time to forget the image of retirees lounging on rocking chairs. Many retired Boomers are spending their free time with "encore careers" that include giving back to their communities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 25 percent of Americans aged 55 and above volunteered in 2014.
From social activism in the '60s and '70s to today’s volunteer projects, this demographic continues to significantly change our world. Here are five examples of how Boomers continue to make lasting impacts with simple acts of kindness:
PROVIDING AID ABROAD Rick and Wendy Walleigh found success in their professional lives in Silicon Valley, but they didn't find their callings until they reached retirement. Rick and Wendy approached volunteering in different ways but their paths converged on one ultimate goal: helping African people out of poverty. One book and almost ten years later, Rick explained in an interview with The Huffington Post how their work in Africa changed their world views and values.
SECURING FUNDS FOR CHILDREN As a teacher for 30 years, Linda Mitacek has always given back to her community. After retirement, she became an instrumental team member in various Kiwanis projects, but it wasn't until her town was hit by an EF4 tornado that she charged to the forefront and secured grants to help the child victims of the storm. Mitacek said to Life & Style in Southern Illinois, "I want to make a positive difference."
VOLUNTEERING TIME FOR HOUSING Another retired teacher, Emma Threat, returned to her hometown of Midland, Texas and began donating her time to shifts at Habitat ReSTORE, by Habitat for Humanity. The store sells donated furniture and building supplies and recycles these items, with its proceeds helping to fund housing projects. Threat explained to Midland Reporter-Telegram that she simply wanted to give back to her community. Now she's one of Habitat's most valuable assets.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO CARE Over the past five years, Rudy Kopp has driven over 30,000 miles in service to local seniors. He chauffeurs the elderly to medical appointments and cracks jokes along the way to lift their spirits. Kopp's reason for volunteering is simple: "You should give a little, a little, and maybe a little more." Even at 88, Kopp leads an active life as an avid traveler, but still makes time nearly every day to help others.
REACHING OUT TO ALL AGES Vicky Tribon of Harmony, Minnesota spends her volunteer hours looking out for the past and the future. Bluff Country News spotlighted her work with youths and the elderly in her community. "Volunteering provides an opportunity to get involved and to pay it forward," Tribon said. For her, helping others in the community is a responsibility.
These are just five examples of how Boomers are making differences at home and abroad and inspiring others along the way. A study by the Corporation for National & Community Service estimates that volunteers aged 65 and over will increase 50 percent by 2020. AARP and AARP Foundation is committed to assisting people 50+ find volunteer opportunities that allow them to have an impact in their communities. Programs like AARP Tax-Aide, Driver Safety Program, Mentor Up and Create the Good connect and create multi-generational programs and deliver social change.