Mark Noonan lives in Portland, Ore. and retired from Intel in 2006. In 2004, he lost his wife in a tragic accident. In his grief, he began reflecting on what he wanted to do going forward. Today, Noonan is a manager at Elders in Action, a Portland nonprofit that advocates for older adults and help them do problem solving so they can remain living independently and active in their communities. His current role is as the Community Engagement Manager. He oversees about 150 volunteers who range in age from 21 to 96, with the median being 62. He makes sure that the clients he serves get the help they need and that those who volunteer get the most out their experience.
He is as excited working “in the business of aging” as he was 30 years ago when he first started out in the business of high-tech, he said. In fact, he sees the two situations as analogous. “Thirty years ago,” he said, “most people couldn’t envision where technology was taking us. Today, very few people can see what the swell of an aging tsunami will bring.”
What he sees it bringing is nothing short of a sea change in entire aspects of our culture and society. “The door is wide open for those with entrepreneurial spirit to start servicing the needs the baby boomer generation will have,” he said. And what does that include? “Anything that helps people stay in their homes and maintain their independence,” he said. Boomers are committed to aging in place — and will need help doing that. He also expects alternative living arrangements to grow — “today’s boomers just can’t even imagine themselves in an assisted living place,” he said.
Noonan can’t stress more the value of volunteering in retirement. Research shows that people who volunteer report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations and lower levels of stress than those who don’t volunteer. The health benefits are huge. Elders in Action realizes that today’s retirees have lots of activities on their schedules such as travel, families, and other work so many of our volunteer programs are set up for the episodic volunteer. Elders in Action volunteers are the heart of the organization and are committed to helping older adults. We are privileged to provide them with meaningful opportunities.