Statement Of Tracy Schroth
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
Los Angeles, California
April 29, 2003
Civic Ventures is a national, nonprofit organization in San Francisco. What we do is support, promote and develop creative ventures that civically engage older adults. We are extremely encouraged and excited by the EPA’s Aging Initiative, which wants to involve older adults in improving the environment. Civic Ventures believes that older adults represent a tremendous, untapped resource for service to our communities. In support of this belief, we do research; we highlight volunteer service programs that engage older adults, and we run some of our own programs with some of you may know as the Experience Corps. Experience Corps recruits retirees to tutor and mentor public school children in 13 cities across the country. The program has strong foundation support and has been extremely successful. So successful, in fact, that there are plans in the not-too-distant future to expand the program into other areas of service, and most of the discussion has centered around the environment so we should definitely do it. Experience Corps recently appointed a new CEO and is in the process of moving its national headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, so we will also be in close proximity to EPA, and closer to national policy activity. We are getting more involved in that. A lot of our projects currently are on the East Coast. I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the elements of Experience Corps that we feel account for its success. These elements could apply to any volunteer program including one involving the environment. Impact is one: all Experience Corps programs must demonstrate an impact on the local community. Learning: Experience Corps promotes the continued learning and growth of volunteers through training, team meetings, conferences and reflection. Community: all Experience Corps members feel a sense of community by working in teams that promote joint problem-solving and provide social support. This approach follows gerontological research showing that strong social networks are instrumental in preserving good health. Leadership: Experience Corps members are encouraged to assume leadership roles, acting as team leaders and working closely with school administrators to design and initiate projects. Options: Experience Corps is designed to provide options for all volunteers who may choose to work half-time, 15 hours a week and those volunteers receive stipends through AmeriCorps, part-time–two to ten hours a week–or on an as-needed basis. We have found through our research that flexibility is extremely important to volunteers in their involvement. Finally, sustainability: Experience Corps projects are decentralized, localized, self-managed entities that respond to the needs and strengths of the individual community. I would like to talk a little bit more about what Civic Ventures does and how we might support your efforts. We conduct surveys of older adults and their attitudes about retirement and community service. We have done about one survey every two years. We highlight creative programs in publications such as this one, which is called Innovations. This particular publication talks about Habitat for Humanity Recreational Vehicle "caravaners." We also develop concepts and ideas and work with other organizations to realize them. One project that we are working on currently is called Life Option Centers. They are housed in libraries, colleges and community centers. They provide a place where older adults can research opportunities in later life. The focus in on service. Our ultimate goal is daunting but very exciting –that is a goal is to transform aging and retirement in this country. So we salute and support EPA’s efforts on behalf of older adults and the environment. Thank you.