A social model for health promotion for an aging population: Initial evidence on the experience corps model


This report evaluates whether a program for older volunteers, designed for both benerativity and health promotion, leads to short-term improvements inmultiple behavioral risk factors and positive effects on intermediary risk factors for disability and other morbidities. The Experience Corps® places older volunteers in public elementary schools in roles designed to meet schools’ needs and increase the social, physical, and cognitive activity of the volunteers. This article reports on a pilot randomized trial in Baltimore, Maryland. The 128 volunteers were 60–86 years old; 95% were African American. At follow-up of 4–8 months, physical activity, strength, people one could turn to for help, and cognitive activity increased significantly, and walking speed decreased significantly less, in participants compared to controls. In this pilot trial, physical, cognitive, and social activity increased, suggesting the potential for the Experience Corps to improve health for an aging population and simultaneously improve educational outcomes for children.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dr. Linda P. Fried.

Additional information

Dr. Fried is with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Drs. Fried, Carlson, Frick, Glass, Rebok, Tielsch, and Zeger and Mr. Hill are with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health: Dr. Wasik is with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools: Dr. Seeman is with the University of California at Los Angeles: Mr. Freeman is with Civic Ventures. Inc.; and Ms. McGill is with the Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

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Fried, L.P., Carlson, M.C., Freedman, M. et al. A social model for health promotion for an aging population: Initial evidence on the experience corps model. J Urban Health 81, 64–78 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1093/jurban/jth094

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  • Compression of morbidity
  • Generativity
  • Healthy aging
  • Older volunteer
  • Social engagement