Fellowships For Older Adults: You Are Never Too Old To Change The World

Mar 18, 2013

I am often asked about fellowships for older adults and experienced professionals since many fellowships appear to skew towards young professionals and students. There are actually many fellowship opportunities for people over age 50, and late career can be one of the best times to pursue a competitive fellowship. You now have a wealth of experience and skills to share with others, and many organizations would benefit from your ability and willingness to serve.

The Peace Corps actively recruits retirees through its “50 Plus Initiative” program. Photo by Peace Corps

What many people don’t know is that service fellowships like the Peace Corps and Americorps provide paid, short-term service opportunities in the U.S. and abroad to people of all ages, including experienced professionals and retirees. Peace Corps in particular actively recruits people age 50 and older through their 50 Plus Initiative. Judy Frey, a Peace Corps volunteer in China, applied so she could change gears from her 20-year career as a manager and training professional and do something more meaningful with her skills. Frey said her age gave her a distinct advantage compared to most of the younger Peace Corps Volunteers.

“Coming to the Peace Corps with life experience can definitely make your job assignment easier,” Frey said. “More older people should explore the possibilities of the Peace Corps for retirement or before. It will keep them alive: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually as I believe it is doing for me.” Read more.

Many people also don’t know that Americorps has no upper age limit for its competitive, paid service opportunities in the United States. At age 71, Arlin Raedeke joined Americorps specifically to help disadvantaged people navigate the U.S. health care system. He worked at the Denver non-profit organization, Boomers Leading Change in Health, which received $300,000 from the Colorado Governor’s office to train Americorps volunteers to help people stay healthy, or to become health system navigators like Radeke. Read more.

In addition to Peace Corps and Americorps, we’ve listed several fellowships in our database that have no age limit, or are geared towards experienced professionals, including:

Encore Fellowships: Encore Fellowships are designed to deliver new sources of talent to organizations solving critical social problems. These paid, time-limited fellowships match skilled, experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations. During the fellowship period (typically 6-12 months, half to full time), the Fellows take on roles that bring significant, sustained impact to their host organizations. Fellows work in U.S. cities and London.

Fulbright Specialist ProgramThe Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) promotes linkages between U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. Grants are awarded in select disciplines to engage in short-term collaborative 2 to 6 week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries worldwide. International travel costs and a stipend are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating host institutions cover grantee in-country expenses or provide in-kind services. U.S. faculty and professionals apply to join a Roster of Specialists for a 5 year term. Rolling deadline.

NYC Civic CorpsThe NYC Civic Corps, an AmeriCorps program run by NYC Service, unites a diverse group of professionals to serve full-time with partnering organizations, working to increase their organizational capacity to engage volunteers and build sustainable volunteer initiatives. Small teams of NYC Civic Corps members are assigned to partner organizations for 10 months. Corps members receive a monthly living stipend of $1,270, health benefits and an end-of-service education award of $5,350. Corps members are placed in a wide array of non-profit organizations and City agencies throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Corps Members range in age from 21-72. 

To find more fellowships for students and professionals at any age, sign up to view our fellowships database.

© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.