New Article: Four Ways to Age-Integrate National Service

Posted by Stanford Social Innovation Review on June 8, 2021

National service programs can bring together older and younger people to serve side by side, producing a windfall of human and social capital, plus much-needed generational and cultural understanding.

In the United States, age segregation is prevalent in national service, just as it is in housing, higher education, and community programs, and it limits opportunities for transformational social change we can ill afford to squander.

Ironically, 60 years ago Americans were poised to move in a different direction. As a United States Senator, John F. Kennedy declared that America was “wasting” the time, talent, and experience of older people—“resources of incalculable value.” When he became president, he intended to end that waste. In his 1961 inaugural address, the 42-year-old Kennedy famously called his fellow Americans to civilian service. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he challenged, “ask what you can do for your country.” The creation of the Peace Corps soon followed, and two years later, he called for a domestic service corps that would include both young people and older citizens.

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