Statement Of Thomas P. Benjamin
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
May 7, 2003
Thomas P. Benjamin
Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement
I wish to thank the Environmental Protection Agency for providing me with the opportunity to speak at this public listening session for the EPA Aging Initiative.
The Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement (EASI) engages thousands of senior volunteers across America to monitor, assess and implement intergenerational community activities that will improve and protect their environment. These activities improve the environment, while meeting the health and social needs of older persons through their active participation in their community.
EASI believes that any program, which involves older persons, must promote the human rights and dignity of those persons, as well as acknowledging the productive and useful roles that they can play in society. EASI's programs create opportunities and remove barriers that hinder older persons from contributing their skills to protect and improve the environment. EASI fosters intergenerational solidarity through active participation in environmental volunteer programs.
Studies and medical research findings continue to demonstrate the positive benefits of individuals at all ages being physically and mentally active. When an individual retires from a lifetime of work, there is a tendency to feel isolated and removed from society. All individuals need to feel that they are a useful and contributing member of society. Through organized EASI Senior Environment Corps, individuals get involved in environmental projects that keep them physically and mentally active.
EASI volunteers engage in environmental projects including energy conservation, environmental education, environmental health, environmental monitoring, environmental restoration and pollution prevention. These senior volunteers establish Senior Environment Corps forming local partnerships to preserve maintain and, when needed, improve the environment in their communities. Working as environmental mentors, they enlist intergenerational community support to actively improve the environment.
Seniors are working in Massachusetts to monitor for the West Nile Virus. In New Mexico, they work with high school students to educate the public about environmental health. In Washington, they collect household toxic chemicals from the homes of the elderly and disabled. In Virginia, they map urban tree resources using GIS mapping. In Montana, they have tested over 10,000 homes for radon gas. In Pennsylvania, they have created a network of seniors to educate the public about bio-terrorism threats to drinking water supplies. In Kentucky, they have mapped the drinking water wells and developed wellhead protection plans. In Texas, they have developed bi-lingual environmental education programs for the residents of colonias. In Delaware, they have provided an advisory committee to the State Legislature. In California, they work with scout troops to help protect the drinking water. In Colorado, they built an urban park. In New York, they provide an after-school environmental education program for latchkey students. In Arizona, they help to reduce the impact of invasive species. In Alabama, they teach the public about national wildlife refuges. In Ohio, they help protect our national parks. In Indiana, they work to rehabilitate Brownfield sites. In Utah, they work to preserve public lands for the future. In Illinois, they work to keep their lakes clean. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of projects across America where senior volunteers are providing crucial volunteer services.
This volunteer leadership provides local credibility to the environmental messages and improves the potential for successfully involving the whole community in projects. Seniors have a special interest in health issues, since they and their grandchildren are more sensitive than the general population.
Senior volunteers are actively involved in helping to secure the environmental and economic health of their communities for current and future generations. Their lifetime of experience and education is present in every community, across our great nation, just waiting to make a positive contribution. The Environmental Protection Agency has an opportunity to show its support of seniors and the environment by taking a leadership role in helping EASI establish a National Senior Environment Corps.