Produced by Bryan Shadden


Take a look around and you'll see it: California's getting noticeably grayer, with between 4 and a half and 5 million people who are over the age of 65.

While we already have more seniors than ever, consider today's numbers the spark in an imminent aging explosion. Demographers tell us that in California, in 2020, that number will be 9 million.

"A lot" is an understatement. Baby Boomers will provide the bulk in the largest retirement bulge in American history. In the next 50 years, California's senior population will increase more than 230%.

But what do the numbers really mean? Will a trip to the links be the new tough ticket? Possibly…but the real fear is that the demographic trend could break the national bank. The volunteer state president for the AARP, Helen Russ, has heard the fears about the difficulty of funding social security and pensions.

And the headlines support the fear. The Bee's David Westphal argues that, "Medicare looms as the principle threat to the federal government's fiscal stability when the 76 million Baby Boomers begin retiring." On the surface, that fiscal forecast looks grim, but seniors are responding with what could be a silver lining: they're volunteering.

Although fully retired, Bill Seidman is donating time to a community he loves.

As a volunteer with the Stockton Police Department's VIPS -- or Volunteers in Police Service -- Bill is saving Stockton some serious money. Consider just some of the work VIPS do each day, from wellness calls to the elderly to school checks -- and in Bill's case, he's helping Stockton with some urban blight.

And on this day, volunteering even had a sense of excitement when Bill spotted someone in a house that should have been empty. A false alarm this time, but minutes later, Bill did find someone's stolen car.

As the leader of Sacramento's Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Laureen Anderson says volunteerism ultimately benefits everyone's wallets. She says that we would have to pay $16.54 for every hour that a volunteer volunteers.

But when it comes to volunteering, there are just some things you can't put a price tag on. Even an injured leg can't keep Jesse Diaz from his mission. Each week, Jesse pays a visit to Darrell Button through a program called peer counseling. The goal: substituting loneliness with friendship.

Will the next generation of retirees share Jesse and Bill's sense of duty? After all, the Baby Boomers have some experience with social causes…

So could the aging boom yield a "Golden Age" of volunteering, where money is saved and communities are strengthened? Or will the costs of an older society be too much to bear? The State Director of Aging sees the scales tipping to the positive...




Lynda Bennett
Director, CA Department of Aging

Helen Russ
State President, AARP

Bill Seidman
V.I.P.S. Volunteer


The complete text of New Valley Episode 206: Divided We Stand...


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