| Peace Corps Training and older Volunteers |
All trainees experience adjustment problems when they arrive in their country of assignment. The need to adjust is heightened for older trainees who anticipate acceptance in an environment that is largely structured by Peace Corps for younger trainees.
All Volunteers need assurance and reassurance that they are performing competently and that their presence makes a difference. Although many older Volunteers may have that self-confidence from their previous successful experiences, sometimes they measure their successes in country by the successes of younger Volunteers, which are inappropriate comparisons.
Older trainees and Volunteers should measure success by their own standards and abilities. Training staff should provide assistance in identifying realistic goals which will increase the self confidence of the older Volunteer.
Inclusion and Age Bias
Acceptance by and within the group is important for everyone. Trainees seek acceptance by the host country, Peace Corps staff, and other Volunteers. They are sensitive to cues that signal this acceptance. Many older trainees resist inclusion in an age group whose problems they do not share and that does not distinguish them as individuals.
Some older Volunteers are critical of staff who say "for your age" or "older Americans always have a harder time learning the language" or "older Americans cannot deal with anything different". These comments, often made unthinkingly or in an effort to be supportive, are insensitive and reinforce negative assumptions that may become reality. Staff should strive to eliminate these negative remarks.
Many older trainees are well aware of the role their age plays and the tendency on the part of some younger trainees to place them in a parental role and of the staff to place them in a slow-learners role with few opportunities to otherwise demonstrate their talents and abilities.
Older trainees and Volunteers should be administered as individuals and not as a group and should be aware through efforts of staff that their concerns are valid to the overall success of the Volunteer experience.
Written and spoken materials which include older Americans in the basic concepts are more conducive to their inclusion in the group during training. References should be expanded to include spouses, children and grandchildren. References to areas of particular interest to older Volunteers could include health insurance, use of leisure time, social security, etc. References to friends could be expanded to include a stronger family orientation. Other references should include 20 or 30 years of experience which may also have a very positive influence on host country nationals and other Volunteers.
All trainees and Volunteers are concerned about their health. Concerns may be greater for older Volunteers. Recuperation from illness or accidents may be slower and susceptibility to complications may be greater. Older Volunteers will probably follow health recommendations more closely to minimize the risks of illness. Health problems are frequently given as a reason for early termination by older Volunteers.
A thorough health orientation should be given as soon as the trainees arrive in country and follow-up information should also be provided at regular intervals.
Medical units should familiarize themselves with the particular needs of older Volunteers and incorporate this information into the health orientation. Topics should also be included which may be of greater interest to older Volunteers, i.e. dental care, eye care, including glaucoma and cataracts, reactions to heat including dehydration and rest periods, exercise, blood pressure, menopause, etc.
Some older Volunteers may wish to be assigned in areas where health facilities are close in order that attention may be available more quickly in case of serious illness or emergency.
Special coverage should be given to maintenance of personal health in cases where the job assignment is distant from a medical facility or health services.