Peace Corps recruits older volunteers

Most people think of the Peace Corps as an organization that sends young people to far-flung nations for stints of manual labor. That image is shifting, however, and the corps reports an increase in volunteers over 50.

As the Peace Corps adds more slots involving activities such as business advising and teaching with computers, the work has become less physically demanding. As a result, 10 percent of the current recruits are over 50, and 28 percent are at least 30 years old. That's a contrast with the 1960s, when 1 percent of recruits were over 50, and 5 percent were at least 30.

"We want the Peace Corps to show the face of America," says Lauren Mitchell, recruitment coordinator at the agency's Denver office, speaking to The Associated Press. "Older people make fantastic volunteers - they bring a lot of expertise, maturity, and life experience."

Like other applicants, older volunteers must pass a medical examination, and are only slightly more likely than younger colleagues to cut short their tours for health reasons.

The most visible senior to participate was Lillian Carter, mother of former President Jimmy Carter, who joined the corps in 1966 when she was 68.

"In many countries, being an older person can have advantages," says Danilo Minnick, a recruiter in New York. "The people respect age."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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