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Looking for a few good boomers to help others

Retiring baby boomers are proving to be valuable volunteers. 'A part of paying for our spot on earth is to help those who need help,' says one.

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Peak age for volunteering tends to be in the mid-30s and 40s, Mr. Dietz says, when married couples and those with children are more likely to be exposed to situations in which people need volunteers – say, coaching for a child's soccer team or giving time to local scouts or schoolchildren as a mentor or group leader.

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Many boomers are also delaying retirement and working into their golden years because their nest eggs have taken a hit in the last few years, giving them less time to volunteer.

An August 2011 Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll found that 65 percent of baby boomers had done some type of volunteer activities through or for an organization over the past year. That is significantly less than adults younger than boomers. The top reasons baby boomers did not volunteer in the past year were not having the time, 69 percent, and health issues or physical limitations, 19 percent.

For boomer Kathy Herrala in Negaunee, Mich., volunteer service started when her now-grown children were young, in Girl Scouts and the school orchestra, and continues into retirement.

"We all have to give back," says Ms. Herrala, who retired four years ago from her longtime job recruiting volunteers for Marquette County. "A part of paying for our spot on Earth is to help those who need help." 

Herrala is volunteering as part of an American Red Cross team dispatched to disasters. She also now has time to turn to a great passion of hers: health care.

Herrala says she's seen too many people in desperate need of health care, so she began volunteering with a program called the Medical Care Access Coalition. It provides medical care to low-income people without insurance.

One experience Herrala says she'll never forget was the day a woman without dental care came to her with dentures that didn't fit properly. Every time the woman needed to talk, she had to take out her teeth so she could speak. Herrala tried to help her find a dentist.

"It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing you can do something to help someone else," Herrala says.

• Associated Press News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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