As the oldest Peace Corps volunteer in service, Emily Dewhirst of Knoxville, Tenn., couldn’t imagine of a better way to celebrate her 83rd birthday this week than as she did — serving her third assignment as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Baltz, Moldova.
“I’m using my talents where they are needed and wanted. People look at me and appreciate the expertise and experience I bring,” says Dewhirst, whose latest assignment is improving English language education for teachers and students.
Chatting via Skype on Nov. 12, the day before her birthday, she laughed ruefully when I asked how her experience as a working older adult in the Eastern European countries where she has served compared with the experience of age at home, in the U.S.
photo supplied by the Peace Corps
“Age is revered in these countries,” she says. “They treat me like gold here.”
“At home, I’m likely to get elbowed by the young. Here, they bow. They believe I can share meaningful ways of doing things,” she says. “It’s great. I love teaching.”
Dewhirst is hardly alone as an older Peace Corps volunteer. Today, more than 7 percent of the corps’ 8,073 volunteers are 50 and older. They serve in 61 posts worldwide. More than 40 are aged 70 and over.
Volunteers often say they are motivated by
“Bruce Frankel’s upbeat, inspiring, timely book shows how taking a risk and fighting to find a passionate career — at any age — can reinvigorate your life...”
— Susan Shapiro, author of Speed Shrinking and Only As Good as Your Word