Peace Corps has an initiative to recruit more 50+ year olds into their ranks. Based on our training group, this is a good idea, as there were only 4 out of 26 of us fitting that description. I’ve helped the LA PC office PR folks a couple of times w/this effort, and will do so again next week-via Skype! They are hosting an information session for 50+ year olds and will be connecting with me via Skype “live” to have me describe my experience here and answer questions. We did a trial run last night to make certain their connection works-time lag may lead to them typing questions to me while I respond via the video feed. Should be interesting.
In anticipation of this, I’ve collected a few thoughts to share about the advantages and challenges that “older” volunteers may face....
1. Respect that comes with age. Here in Morocco, as is true in many countries, elders are respected greatly. (See, there are advantages that come w/letting the grey hair grow out)
2. Credibility-without knowing my background, people assume I know what I’m talking about-and the opposite is a frustration for younger volunteers.
3. Business experience to draw upon.
4. More experience figuring out how to get things done/problem solving.
5. Less harassment from kids and young men.
6. Access to authorities, incl. government officials, which helps get things done.
7. Older volunteers tend to have more patience and tolerance for others and differences
8. It’s not all about “us”
9. We’ve learned that the best solution is the one that the person doing the work believes in
10.We’ve learned to set realistic expectations
11. Confidence-it’s easy to allow circumstances to shake your confidence, but older volunteer tend to bounce back faster
Challenges (followed by how I’m trying to address them):
1. Language-We’ve been out of the academic/classroom setting a long time. I have 2 tutors I bounce off of each other-PC pays for one, I pick up the tab on the other one.
2. Younger volunteers-Other PCVs are a big part of your support network, and they’re mostly in their 20’s. Some older volunteers have difficulty w/this, but I find we all learn from one another and mix well.
3. The job is physical-from walking as your primary means of travel, travelling in unusual circumstances, extreme heat and cold, site requirements (availability of water and electricity vary), sleeping on the floor (when visiting other PCVs and staying in the homes of others), etc. I have Pilates DVDs I use for exercise.
4. Loss of privacy-Older volunteers have commonly lived alone before joining the PC. While you’ll have alone time, you’ll also find that your life is pretty open to all in your community. Make time for the community, but make time for yourself.
Common Challenges for both younger and older volunteers:
1. Remaining flexible in the face of frustrations-keep your goals in mind-it’s a process not a product
2. Missing significant events in the lives of loved ones-use Skype, email, packages as much as possible to feel connected
3. Your experience is what you make it. Don't wait for someone else to tell you what to do....make it happen....life IS a self-fulfilling prophecy
4. Be prepared for what may feel like invasive/personal questions, ie; are you married, do you have children, are you Muslim, do you support Obama, how much did that cost, do you live alone, are you fasting for Ramadan? These are not questions specific to you-in Morocco, they are questions that would be asked of anyone. Sometimes you are treated special because you are different from others in the community. However, it’s good to remember (with a dose of humility and humor) that sometimes you’re being treated just as they treat everyone else-and in Morocco, that means they want to know all of your business!