The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Social Work: M.S.W


Social Work


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Gray Whitford

Second Advisor

Lake Dziengel

Third Advisor

Linda Havir

Keywords and Subject Headings

Program Evaluation, Older Adults, Volunteerism, Psycho-social Benefits of Volunteering, Engagement Benefits for Older Adults


According to the United States Census Bureau (2008), by the year 2030, nearly one in five United States residents are expected to be age 65 or older. The astronomical growth of the senior population will affect many aspects of society, challenging senior volunteer programs and many other service providers to meet the needs of aging individuals. In the 40 years since formal volunteer programs began, researchers have used various methods to determine what kind and how extensive benefits are for older adult volunteers. From additional social roles to feelings of generativity, volunteer programs seem to be a theoretically-grounded source of quality of life improving services to the growing population of seniors.

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is a federally sponsored program for older adults, ages 55 and better, who utilize their skills and interests in a wide range of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and faith-based groups to address critical community needs. The Greater St. Cloud Area RSVP engages volunteers living in Benton, Stearns, and Sherburne counties of Minnesota.

This study evaluated whether or not results from the existing body of research on senior volunteerism held true for members of the Greater St. Cloud Area RSVP. A secondary analysis of survey data examined psycho-social benefits, or life satisfaction, that volunteers perceive related to their service with RSVP. Based on a modified version of the Volunteer Impact Scale (Gartland, 2001), Life Quality and Successful Aging Factors were coupled with reports of overall quality of life to determine the existence of and correlations between RSVP service and life satisfaction. Data analysis indicated that RSVP volunteers largely perceive positive, psycho-social benefits along the major variable groups (Life Quality, Successful Aging, and Overall Quality of Life) and that they credit positive changes in these areas of their life to involvement with RSVP.


This research project would not have been possible without the encouragement, assistance, and guidance of many people. It is a pleasure to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to everyone who made this thesis possible.

First and foremost, I would like to express my love and gratitude to my family for their continued understanding and endless support through the duration of my studies. To my husband, Randy, and my daughter, Emily, thank you for your patience while I pursue this dream. To my mom and dad, Brenda and Len Levinski, thank you for always believing in and supporting me in any way you could.

It has been an honor for me to have been advised and challenged by my thesis review committee, who were abundantly helpful and offered invaluable insight throughout this process. Those committee members included: Dr. Gary Whitford, Dr. Lake Dziengel, and Dr. Linda Havir.

I am also indebted to Randy Kolb, of the Statistical Consulting Center at St. Cloud State University, for sharing his expertise with statistical analysis.

I owe my deepest gratitude to Dr. Janet Hope for sharing her time and talent to help me develop an intelligent and well-written manuscript.

I would also like to acknowledge Peter Gartland. His research through the Corporation for National and Community Service inspired me to undertake and guided me through this project.

Furthermore, I would like to convey my appreciation for the staff members of the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. To Angie, Charlotte, Jennifer, and Lisa, thank you for your patience, accommodations, and help to collect the data that was so vital to this project's success. I would also like to recognize the wholehearted support shown by the program's Advisory Council members.

Finally, to the senior volunteers of the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, thank you for opening the door to your world. I am inspired by your generosity, sense of humor, and commitment to meeting community needs.

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

-George Bernard Shaw

Included in

Social Work Commons