Alice Carter is not your typical 87-year-old. She doesn’t live in Florida, nor does she want to catch up on R&R. Instead, she has chosen a different path. You can find her in Morocco with the Peace Corps, where she has been for the past year, making her the Corps’ oldest current volunteer.
Roughly 7 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are over 50. When wannabes choose to sign up, they have to consider health issues, which often become more complicated as they age. But for Carter, originally from Boston, age is just a number.
She has wanted to join the Peace Corps since 1960 when she heard President Kennedy urge young Americans to dedicate themselves to peace and progress around the world, she recently told NPR’s Weekend Edition.
“I thought, gee I’d like to do that but, it’s not gonna happen. But it was like a little blip like when you fall in love with somebody and you know that little blip, that click goes off and you say ‘that’s for me!’ And so the Peace Corps was kinda like ‘that’s for me,’” said Carter, who was involved in the civil rights movement and a Vietnam War protester. Her children and grandchildren were resistant to Carter’s idea, but she won most of them over.
The Peace Corps works hard to recruit older volunteers like Carter, who was recently a tutor to inner-city kids. These volunteers bring a lot to the table according to Peace Corps staff — from skills learned in the workforce to previous life experiences to maturity — traits that can help younger volunteers serve in a different way.
While Carter says she does not plan to rejoin, she does plan on finishing up her tour, scheduled to end in 2017.
Listen to Carter talk about the value of staying active in old age in this NPR Weekend Edition Sunday interview.