Seniors seen as key civic resource

Elderly North Carolinians play a big role in the state’s civic life and will be even more important as Baby Boomers start turning 65 in 2011, and the state should find ways to engage them in service activities, a new study says.

Seniors in the state vote and return census forms at higher rates than any other generation, give the biggest share of their incomes to charity of any generation, and volunteer more than most, says the study by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

And seniors who use the Internet are more likely to be civically engaged online than Boomers who use the Internet, the study says.

With the state population age 65 and older expected to double over the next 20 years, “North Carolina needs to tap the civic resources that our seniors represent,” Mebane Rash, editor of North Carolina Insight, the center’s journal, says in a statement.

“Older adults are looking for encore careers,” she says. “Many want to volunteer for nonprofits or public agencies, but they have never been asked. “The state needs to play a role in matching those who want to serve with opportunities for service.”

The center’s study says 76 percent of North Carolinians age 65 and older voted in the November 2008 elections, compared to 70 percent for all age groups, with 78 percent of men age 65 and older voting at the highest rate of any age group.

With 2010 census forms just arriving in people’s homes, the study says, 89.1 percent of Americans age 65 and older returned their 2000 census forms, the highest rate in the U.S., followed by a return rate of 82.4 percent fofr ages 45 to 64.

North Carolinians age 70 and older give the highest percentage of their incomes to nonprofits in their communities, the study says, although a higher percentage of Boomers actually give.

And Boomers will have more money to give over the next several decades because they will receive a lot of wealth through bequests, the study says.

North Carolinians age 65 and older volunteer more than most other generations, although they trail their age group nationally.

In 2008, the study says, 22.7 percent of older adults in the state volunteered, compared to 29 percent of Boomers.

In North Carolina, only college students volunteered at a higher rate, 32.9 percent.

Just over 25 percent of all North Carolinians volunteer, the study says.

And seniors age 72 and older who use the internet are more likely to be civically engaged online than Boomers who use the internet, the study says.

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