WASHINGTON - Local charities and nonprofits are looking for a few good baby boomers - well, lots of them, actually - to roll up their sleeves to help local schools, soup kitchens and others in need.
Boomers are attractive volunteers, and it's not just the sheer strength of their numbers - 77 million. They are living longer. They are more educated than previous generations. And, especially appealing: They bring well-honed skills and years of real-world work and life experience.
"What we have with the transition of the boomers across the traditional age of retirement is a great opportunity," says Dr. Erwin Tan, who heads the Senior Corps program at the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency in Washington. Senior Corps helps connect older Americans to service jobs.
"The question for us is how can we as a country not afford to mobilize this huge source of human capital to meet the vital needs of our communities," said Tan, a geriatrician. He says nonprofits are retooling to attract more boomers by offering a variety of skills-based opportunities as well as more flexibility, such as nontraditional hours or projects that don't require a trip to the office and can be completed at home.
Mike Carr of Fort Wayne, Ind., is exactly the kind of skillful boomer sought by communities.
Carr, 65, retired about a year ago as an accountant for Verizon Communications. Instead of golfing or parking himself on the couch, he volunteers with low-income people and military families, helping them prepare and file their tax returns.
Carr also volunteers as treasurer for a church group and helps people with paperwork for food stamps and unemployment.
"There's so much in the news today that's very negative and a lot of it I can't do a whole lot about," says Carr. "But at least here in the community that I live in, there are some things that I can do to help others."
About a third of boomers, ages 48 to 66 years, tend to gravitate toward opportunities with a religious underpinning, according to CNCS figures. That was followed by volunteer opportunities in education, 22 percent; social service, 14 percent; and hospitals, 8 percent.
The percentage of boomers volunteering these days, however, is on the decline.
Nearly 22 million baby boomers gave their time in communities across the country in 2010. That's about 28.8 percent of boomers, down slightly from 29.9 percent in 2007 and from 33.5 percent in 2003, according to the community service corporation.