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Study finds older North Carolinians are civically active

Posted March 25, 2010 12:01 a.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2010 5:32 a.m. EDT

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— Elderly citizens in the state are more likely than the “Baby Boom” generation to be civically engaged online, according to study released Thursday by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.

Of North Carolinians aged 72 and older, 17 percent discuss public affairs on the Internet at least once a week and 8 percent speak about the topic every day, the study showed.

The study found the civic contributions of the elderly are a huge resource for the state.

“North Carolina’s population aged 65 and over will double during the next 20 years as ‘Baby Boomers’ begin turning 65 in 2011. We need to utilize this great civic resource,” said Mebane Rash, editor of the Center’s journal, North Carolina Insight.

In addition to being active online, the group was also found to have higher voting rates than the population at large. In November 2008, 76 percent of registered voters in this group went to the polls. That is compared to a 70 percent voter turnout for all age groups.

Older citizens also have a higher rate of return their census forms. In 2000, the nationwide census return rate was 78 percent. People aged 65 and older had a return rate of 89 percent.

“They do the hard work of being a citizen. The more civically engaged our future generations of seniors are, the better off North Carolina will be,” Rash said.

North Carolinians aged 70 and older also give the highest percentage of their incomes to nonprofits in their communities, the study showed.

Adults aged 65 and older in North Carolina also volunteer more than most other generations. In 2008, 1.7 million North Carolinians volunteered with an organization, performing 221 million hours of service.

“Thoughtful North Carolinians need to consider the talent pool of the elders that are living in our state. They are people of great ability. Some are people with international experience. They all have something to contribute. The question is how to best utilize this great accumulation of talent,” former President of the UNC System Bill Friday said in a statement.