Experience Corps

Since Encore.org’s founding, we have been a hub of social innovation. We have successfully created new programs, refined and demonstrated their effectiveness, and often spun them off to a new home with the institutional capacity and commitment to take them to scale.

Experience Corps and the Purpose Prize, two programs we launched and developed, clearly demonstrate this trajectory. Both are now signature programs of AARP –one sign that what was once innovative, even unique, is becoming mainstream. Encore.org and AARP share a common goal of re-envisioning aging in America, and have enjoyed a long history of collaboration. Encore.org is deeply grateful to AARP for its commitment to take these two programs to scale, with a much broader reach.

“Experience Corps makes a significant difference building a positive environment for learning, helps students achieve,” and serves as “a cost-effective way to improve the quality of education and supplement overworked teachers.”
— The Center for American Progress

Experience Corps

IDEA: Mobilizing the 50+ Population for Social Change

The first Baby Boomers hadn’t yet turned 60 when Experience Corps was launched in 1996 as a five-site demonstration program of the National Senior Service Corps (now Senior Corps). The model, co-created by Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Encore.org, and Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, was based on a 1988 concept paper by John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder of Common Cause. Gardner envisioned the creation of a new institution – Experience Corps – that would mobilize the time, talent, and experience of older Americans to revitalize their communities.

INNOVATION: From Startup to Scale and Sustainability

Over almost two decades, Encore.org developed, refined and grew the Experience Corps model, working with local partners across the U.S. Now serving over 30,000 students in more than 20 cities across the country, Experience Corps is the largest AmeriCorps program engaging adults 50+ to serve young children. In 2011, Experience Corps became part of AARP and is now AARP Experience Corps.

IMPACT: A Proven Win-Win for Kids and Older Adults

  • For kids — increased literacy skills: Rigorous evidence-based research from Washington University in St. Louis found that students with Experience Corps tutors achieved as much as 60% improvement in critical literacy skills compared to their peers. Researchers conducted a randomized, control-group study of the program. Learn more.
  • For 55+ tutors — sustained improvement in health: Studies conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that Experience Corps tutors and mentors who volunteer on a regular basis experience positive physical and mental health outcomes. Learn More.

Experience Corps Philadelphia 2000 – 2001

Photos by Alex Harris, documentary photographer, author and faculty
at the Center for Documentary Studies, Durham, NC.
©Alex Harris

Banner: Matt Roth Photography