Older Americans Show Growth in Population and Volunteer Activity

Bill Wilkening Volunteer

Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions to our communities and our country. When this day of observance was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. By the year 2020, the U.S. will have more than 55 million adults living beyond the age of 65.

It is predicted that adults age 65 and older will account for roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As FamilyMeans plans for its future, the agency recently created a committee of various FamilyMeans disciplines to begin putting services in place that will help aging individuals, their families and the community prepare for and navigate aging with confidence.

Older Americans are also volunteering. In 2010, Americans age 65 and older devoted a median of 96 hours annually to volunteer activities. FamilyMeans benefits from hundreds of volunteers each year, including many who are age 65 and older. One of these volunteers is Bill Wilkening who has provided more than 4,000 hours of volunteer activity at FamilyMeans since 2008.

“I know many people in their 80s who don’t seem nearly as old as their age,” said Margaret Irwin, volunteer coordinator at FamilyMeans. “Bill is definitely one of them! He is active, vibrant, energetic, and lives his life with the purpose of making life better for others.”

According to Today’s Research on Aging (August 2011), researchers have identified a range of health benefits associated with volunteer activity among older adults, which are:

  • Improved self-reported health
  • Increased physical functioning
  • Better cognitive functioning
  • Reduced depressive symptoms
  • Longer lives

Bill has served FamilyMeans in many capacities including as an in-home respite caregiver for 15 families and as a Day Out! volunteer. In addition, each year Bill counts the money following the St. Croix Garden Tour and has coordinated numerous poinsettia sales that benefit FamilyMeans. He also represents the agency at various health fairs and expos throughout the year.

Most recently, Bill was awarded the Grace B. Stoltze award during FamilyMeans’ 2014 annual meeting in April. The Grace B. Stoltze award is named after one of the agency’s founders who herself recognized the importance of volunteerism. The agency’s highest honor is given to volunteers for remarkable service, which Bill has provided over the years.

A bank executive before his retirement, Bill once commented that he was joining FamilyMeans as a volunteer “not for personal gain although I’m sure I will benefit from the experience.”