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    10. Environmental Engagement in Later Life: The Reasonable Person Model as a Framework for Intervention


    Retirees offer a promising resource to help address contemporary environmental crises. In this chapter we use the Reasonable Person Model (RPM) as a framework to examine environmental stewardship among retirees. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data from the Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) program developed at Cornell University, we consider how program design characteristics consistent with RPM are likely to lead to positive outcomes (e.g., making a difference or generativity and social connection or participation). We employ RPM holistically in our analysis (model building, being effective, meaningful action), with particular focus on the themes of understanding, competence, participation, and making a difference.

    The Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) program is an innovative model designed around 2007 to both attract retirees who might not otherwise become involved and to make their volunteer involvement more effective and rewarding. We employ the Reasonable Person Model (RPM) as a conceptual framework to understand the design of the RISE program and its potential effects. Such a framework has been lacking in the field for the design of interventions to promote environmental volunteerism and civic engagement (EVCE). RPM is highly appropriate to guide intervention research on EVCE in later life.

    There is increasing concern in the United States and internationally about a host of environmental problems, including toxic waste, water and air pollution, urban sprawl, destruction of natural areas, and the negative effects of climate change. Research has clearly shown that these problems are negatively associated with human health and well-being as well as the quality of life in local communities. The search for solutions has ranged from sweeping legislative and policy intervention to micro-level efforts to change individual behavior.

    As one strategy to address pressing environmental problems, consensus has developed that volunteerism and civic engagement are essential at national, state, and local levels. Organizations seek help with a wide range of issues, including watershed monitoring (Firehock & West, 1995), policy input (Wagenet & Pfeffer, 2007), ecological restoration projects (Miles, Sullivan, & Kuo, 1998), and environmental stewardship programs (Ryan, Kaplan, & Grese, 2001). At present, however, the need for volunteers greatly outstrips the number of people interested in committing unpaid leisure time to environmental issues (Pillemer & Wagenet, 2008; Tonn, Waidley, & Petrich, 2001). The rapidly growing population of older persons has the potential to help meet the need for greater involvement in environmental action (Pillemer & Wagenet, 2008; Pillemer, Wagenet, Goldman, Bushway, & Meador, 2010). With the aging and retirement of the leading edge of the baby boom generation, the number of retirees with leisure time to devote to activities such as EVCE is increasing dramatically, providing a potentially sizable resource for environmental organizations. To ensure that the talents of older adults are effectively utilized, there is a pressing need to create opportunities for older adults to be involved in meaningful roles, especially after retirement (Pillemer, Wagenet, et al., 2010).

    Environmental volunteerism appears to be highly appropriate for older people because of both their developmental stage and their unique historical experiences. Theories of human development suggest that older persons experience a need for generativity—that is, for activities that are focused on improving the world and leaving a legacy for future generations (Villar, 2012). A logical outgrowth of this developmental stage is an interest in making a positive contribution to the environment, given that stewardship of the environment is of critical importance to the quality of life for future generations—both of their own family members and of younger generations in society at large. In addition, for some older individuals (especially those affected by the Great Depression and its aftermath), the experience of poverty while growing up has shaped values and life habits that are environmentally responsible. For example, one problem in contemporary society is overconsumption, which directly leads to forms of environmental devastation (Nickerson, 2002). Older people can influence their children and grandchildren to consume less and to repair, rather than replace, goods.

    Beyond the developmental and historical reasons for a fit between older adults and EVCE, there are also potential health benefits to be derived. Research suggests that participating in volunteer activities related to the environment contributes to mental and physical health among older persons (Librett, Yore, Buchner, & Schmid, 2005; Pillemer, Fuller-Rowell, Reid, & Wells, 2010). Environmental volunteering is associated with increased physical activity (Librett et al., 2005) which is linked to a variety of positive physical health outcomes (Conn, Minor, Burks, Rantz, & Pomeroy, 2003; Prohaska et al., 2006). Moreover, public health research suggests that environmental problems disproportionately compromise the health of the older population. Studies show that older individuals are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution, with more severe respiratory symptoms, exacerbations of coronary disease, and possibly mortality (Sandström, Frew, Svartengren, & Viegi, 2003). Older people may also have greater vulnerability to certain types of toxic chemicals (Geller & Zenick, 2005) and may be at increased risk due to climate change because they are more vulnerable to the effects of temperature extremes and have a significantly higher mortality risk in extreme weather events (McMichael, Woodruff, & Hales, 2006). Therefore, health-related self-interest is a reasonable motivation for older people to engage in EVCE (De Young, 2000; Kaplan, 2000; Omoto & Snyder, 2002).

    Editors’ Comment: All three challenges are a result of lacking mental models, whether they be about domain knowledge, opportunities to act, or their rewards.

    Despite the evidence for this gray-and-green connection, the topic has been insufficiently addressed in discussions of promoting EVCE, and weak organizational effort, possibly in tandem with individual-level barriers, has held back the participation of older people. A survey we conducted of local environmental organizations in New York state provided evidence for this phenomenon. Approximately two-thirds of the organizations surveyed did not make any special accommodations for older persons (Pillemer, Wagenet, et al., 2010). No organization made a special effort to recruit older or retired volunteers. In addition, our exploratory research uncovered three potential individual-level barriers reported by older persons regarding environmental volunteerism (Pillemer, Wagenet, et al., 2010). First, some respondents felt that they had insufficient expertise or knowledge about environmental issues and science to contribute effectively. Second, they were unaware of opportunities for environmental stewardship in their communities and were unsure how they could become involved. Finally, environmental volunteer activities were not perceived as socially fulfilling compared to other types of opportunities (e.g., volunteering in schools or churches). Fundamental hypotheses of the work described in this chapter are that effective programs can be created to address these barriers and that the use of RPM can enhance efforts to create supportive environments in which older adults can function effectively and make a difference as environmental stewards.

    In the next section we describe the core components of the RISE program. We then identify specific characteristics of RISE that align with RPM themes to create a supportive environment to promote model building, effective functioning, and meaningful action. Next, we present empirical data: qualitative data to examine RISE participants’ motivations and quantitative data regarding RISE outcomes. We then present conclusions and consider next steps.

    The RISE Program

    Our research team has developed and conducted feasibility testing of the RISE environmental stewardship program designed to increase the participation and satisfaction of older people in EVCE. RISE is designed to achieve three major expected outcomes for individuals: increased understanding of key environmental issues and ability to access scientific information about them; improved psychological and social well-being through increased physical activity, exposure to nature, and social engagement; and increased involvement in EVCE activities. An additional long-term outcome is the creation of expanded community roles for older adults in environmental activities; ideally the volunteers are expected to become part of a sustained effort to make a difference in the local environment.

    RISE is based on the following assumptions, which not only echo RPM themes but are also grounded in both theory and research regarding pro­environment behaviors and successful volunteer programs.

    Providing both an overall mental map of environmental issues and a core of knowledge relating to local issues will facilitate older people’s involvement in EVCE. As noted, for some older people a barrier to environmental volunteering is a lack of scientific understanding (Pillemer, Wagenet, et al., 2010). For this reason, RISE includes science-based educational sessions taught by experts in their fields. An effort is made to avoid the perils of expertise (S. Kaplan, Chapter 3) (e.g., communication gap or disconnect) by providing plenty of time for questions and discussion as well as opportunities for RISE participants to link the information to their own experience. A further goal of RISE is training in how to evaluate scientific information about the environment. Therefore, all sessions include discussion of how additional knowledge can be obtained and how to distinguish scientific evidence from other available information.

    Editors’ Comment: As Sullivan (Chapter 4) describes, physical environments can also promote social interaction.

    Environmental leadership training is needed for optimal EVCE participation of older persons. As Gallagher (Chapter 8) has emphasized, training is needed in developing leadership skills for environmental stewardship. Participants can benefit from understanding how their values affect their environmental activities and how to make the most of a volunteer job as well as from understanding the range and types of volunteer engagement. The leadership training also emphasizes the diverse ways that an individual might be a leader. Not all leaders are charismatic or vocal; some may quietly lead by example.

    A supportive interpersonal environment must be created. Staying socially connected can become a major challenge for people after retirement. Organized group programs are needed that foster social interaction and engagement in rewarding social interaction.

    Editors’ Comment: These workshop components implement many aspects of supportive environments and share many commonalities with programs described throughout the book (e.g., Gallagher, Chapter 8; Monroe, Chapter 14; Kumler, Chapter 18).

    The skills and knowledge obtained need to be put into practice. Beyond an educational program, to create effective environmental stewards an experience involving action is critically important (see also Bardwell, Chapter 7; Gallagher, Chapter 8; Kumler, Chapter 18). Therefore, the training program should involve some form of actual EVCE engagement.

    Based on these assumptions, RISE includes three interrelated components, all of which typically take place over a ten- to twelve-week period. Approximately thirty hours of training and education are provided, followed by a capstone project. The three main components of RISE are as follows:

    1. Skills for Environmental Action and Leadership (SEAL). An intensive full-day experiential workshop begins the RISE program. The goal is to build the capacity of participants to engage in effective and rewarding environmental stewardship in their communities. The SEAL workshop covers identifying and developing strengths as a leader, understanding leadership styles, critically evaluating information, teamwork, and understanding how values affect environmental debates. A key component is training in how participants can maximize volunteer involvement and have their goals for volunteering and special needs considered by environmental organizations.
    2. RISE workshop sessions. Each RISE program consists of six to eight sessions lasting two to three hours that focus on global and local environmental issues. Session topics are selected by the organizers to fit local needs and include global climate change; water quality; waste stream issues, including recycling and composting; government regulation and policy; alternative energy; children, nature, and health; and citizen science and behavior change. A hallmark of the workshops is that scientific experts from local educational institutions and organizations serve as speakers. All sessions focus on science-based information presented in an unbiased manner. Several field trips to local sites of environmental interest (e.g., recycling center, a home powered by alternative energy, stream testing) are included in the workshop series and are very effective.
    3. Capstone project. Upon completion of the RISE workshop series, RISE participants take on a local project. The exact nature of the capstone project is flexible, as groups vary according to participant ability and local opportunities. Ideas are discussed during the course of the earlier RISE sessions, and a decision is made by consensus as to what project to pursue. Examples of group projects include a local publicity campaign about proper disposal of unused phar­maceuticals, a battery return project, participation in an intergenerational gardening program, and a public forum on an environmental issue.

    RISE and RPM

    RPM is manifested in the design of the RISE program in a variety of ways. In this section, we consider explicit program characteristics that are consistent with RPM’s three core components: model building, being effective, and meaningful action (Table 10.1).

    Model Building

    The design of RISE facilitates the development of participants’ mental models or cognitive maps—of the RISE program itself and of local environmental issues—as well as encouraging exploration to extend those maps. Model building is facilitated in the following ways. A clear outline of program structure and expectations is provided to enable participants to build a mental model of the RISE program. The SEAL workshop, the very first meeting of each RISE group, provides an orientation and grounding in the RISE model, philosophy, and goals, giving participants a mental model of the program. RISE organizers also attempt to anticipate and preemptively address where confusion might occur with respect to environmental issues. For example, the workshop includes a session on processing scientific information because people are often overwhelmed by the deluge of “facts” presented by the media. This session provides participants with the tools to make sense of such information.

    TABLE 10.1 RPM components manifested in the RISE Program
    RPM ComponentsRPM applied to: Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE)
    UnderstandingClear program description / procedures / structure
         Coherence / legibilityTopic Papers provide overview of knowledge
         Order / predictabilityWorkshop sessions provided by local experts
    ExplorationBuild on baseline competence
         Safe home baseStretch understanding through field trips & project
         Complexity / mystery
    Clear-HeadedA venue with natural view and nearby nature
         Cognitive RestorationFrequent breaks during workshop sessions
    Incorporates field trips & outdoor time
         Trust / opportunityStretch understanding through the capstone project
    ParticipationFeedback / input opportunities
         AffordancesNot over-staffed
    Making A DifferenceChoice / flexibility
         Authentic ImpactAddress a genuine local issue
    Listening, Respect, FairnessRecognition / appreciation
         Being heard

    RISE attempts to meet participants “where they are at” to connect with the diversity of existing knowledge structures. This is particularly important because RISE participants vary widely in political affiliation, economic status, and educational background and thus come to the program with varied perspectives and knowledge. For example, a typical group might include one member whose goal is to help preserve Earth for future generations, another who has a spiritual connection to nature, a third who is committed to advocacy work on environmental issues, a political conservative who spent a lifetime hunting and fishing and is concerned about the destruction of natural wildlife areas, and a neophyte to environmental issues who is exploring a possible area for volunteering after retirement.

    To aid such diverse participants in their development of cognitive maps of global and local environmental issues, succinct topic papers were developed by the Cornell team and distributed prior to workshop sessions. Each topic paper was structured to provide a brief history of the issue, summarize research evidence, describe controversies or disagreements, explain how citizens can get involved, and describe the relevance of the issue for our sustainable future. The topic papers address themes with broad relevance rather than regional specificity, including home energy use, soil contaminants, water quality, climate change, and the benefits of nature to human health. Opportunities to explore and extend cognitive maps are provided within the workshops through a discussion format that complements the presentations, allows for information exchange, and encourages exploration of topics beyond the initial conversation. Field trips to locally relevant sites also provide opportunities for exploration and the extension of cognitive maps (see A. Kaplan, Chapter 17; Grese, Chapter 19; Monroe, Chapter 14). Field trips have included destinations such as waste water treatment facilities, LEED green buildings, ecologically designed homes, and community gardens.

    Being Effective

    The second core component of RPM is reflected in RISE through several strategies designed to enhance effectiveness and reduce cognitive fatigue. Local program leaders are encouraged to find a space with views of nature and proximate outdoor natural areas to provide opportunities for cognitive restoration and minimize the depletion of attentional capacity. Field trips, in addition to providing opportunities to expand cognitive maps, often also allow for time outdoors and in varied settings. This contributes to cognitive restoration and also builds competence by enhancing participants’ literacy regarding local environmental issues. Frequent breaks or time-outs are scheduled during workshop sessions. Finally, the RISE capstone project provides an opportunity to further expand competence by applying knowledge and skills gained through the program to a local environmental challenge. The capstone projects also take into account limited attentional capacity by focusing on a manageable local opportunity rather than a global crisis. This allows participants to have some experience and hopefully success on a small scale.

    Meaningful Action

    Addressing the third RPM theme, the RISE program provides a variety of opportunities for participation, for making a difference, and for respect. Scale is one strategy to encourage participation (Barker & Gump, 1964). Each implementation of RISE is limited to fifteen participants to ensure that all have opportunities to be engaged in activities and speak during workshop discussions. The layout of the physical space can also enhance participation. Sociopetal seating configurations (i.e., sitting in a circle rather than in rows) can facilitate social interaction (Osmond, 1957). As previously mentioned, there is a focus on putting skills and knowledge into practice in the real world (see also Kumler, Chapter 18, and Gallagher, Chapter 8). The final hands-on capstone project provides RISE participants with an opportunity to make a difference in local environmental issues. Finally, respect for and among participants is promoted through exercises emphasizing listening skills and encouraging consideration of various perspectives.

    Supportive Environment

    In many ways, RISE is designed to provide a supportive environment that brings out the best in participants. Through the physical setting (e.g., proximity to nature, sociopetal seating, appropriate acoustics), program features (e.g., topic papers, clear program of activities and expectations), and temporal characteristics (e.g., an unrushed pace both within sessions and across the weeks), the RISE program has been designed to foster reasonableness. With continued use of RPM as a framework, RISE has the potential to further enhance retirees’ cognitive maps of environmental issues, facilitate their effectiveness, and promote meaningful action.

    A number of activities (including providing lunch in some sessions, field trips, and detailed personal introductions) deliberately promote social interaction and interpersonal closeness in the group. One drawback to environmental volunteerism is that many activities (e.g., stream testing, trail cleanups) can be relatively solitary, whereas retirees often pursue volunteering specifically to develop new friendships. For this reason, efforts are explicitly built into the program to encourage the creation of meaningful and supportive connections among participants.


    We turn now to preliminary empirical data from an evaluation of the RISE program. First, to shed light on the synergies between the RPM model and the RISE program, we examine RISE participants’ motivations. Second, to examine the effects of the RISE program in the context of RPM, we present quantitative results of pre- and postcomparisons of outcomes among RISE participants.

    These data are drawn from a formative evaluation of the RISE program in New York and Florida. RISE participants were recruited through the Cooperative Extension Service in New York state and through a senior living community in Florida. A total of ninety individuals took part in the program and completed usable pretest and posttest surveys, allowing us to examine changes in outcomes of interest over time. Fifty-three participants (59% of the sample) were in central New York state, and thirty-seven (41%) were in the Sarasota, Florida region; fifty-nine (65%) of the ninety participants were female. The average age of participants was sixty-nine years, and ages ranged from fifty-four to eighty-nine (the criterion for joining RISE was based on being retired rather than an arbitrary age range; several younger retirees participated). All participants were retired, although 9% (eight participants) worked part-time in some capacity. RISE participants were relatively well educated, with only thirteen (21%) having less than a college degree. Nearly all respondents were white, with only three nonwhite participants; this pattern reflects the racial composition of the two regions where RISE took place, which have low older minority populations.

    Motivations: Evidence from Qualitative Data

    First, we briefly present the results of qualitative interviews conducted with seventy-nine of the ninety RISE participants prior to the start of the program. By examining participants’ responses to the question “What do you hope to get out of participating in the RISE project?” we consider synergies with RPM themes: understanding and exploration, clearheadedness and competence, and participation, making a difference, and listening/respect/fairness, which fall within model building, being effective, and meaningful action, respectively (see Table 10.1). Our results are represented in Figure 10.1.


    Understanding was a theme strongly represented in participants’ motivations for joining the RISE program. Words such as “knowledge,” “learning,” “information,” and “understanding” were mentioned by sixty-five participants. Typical comments included “I hope to” statements: “learn a great deal about the environment,” “get a better understanding of the environment and what’s being done to preserve it,” and “become better educated about what’s needed.” The theme of exploration (and discovery) was less often mentioned but is reflected in such “I hope to” statements as “discover my potential role” and “I don’t really have a sense of complete direction. I’m exploring how, where I can make a difference.”

    Figure 10.1. Word Cloud illustrating motivations of RISE participants (N=79). Text size corresponds to word frequency in qualitative responses to “What do you hope to get out of . . . RISE?” ( Notes: “environmental” was changed to “environment” and “learning” to “learn” to create a more integrated Word Cloud. In an effort to create a more parsimonious Word Cloud, we omitted prepositions (e.g., and, but, to, for, of, with) and other small words that did not have meaning by themselves (e.g., the, well, some, somehow, just, mean).
    Figure 10.1. Word Cloud illustrating motivations of RISE participants (N=79). Text size corresponds to word frequency in qualitative responses to “What do you hope to get out of . . . RISE?” (

    Notes: “environmental” was changed to “environment” and “learning” to “learn” to create a more integrated Word Cloud. In an effort to create a more parsimonious Word Cloud, we omitted prepositions (e.g., and, but, to, for, of, with) and other small words that did not have meaning by themselves (e.g., the, well, some, somehow, just, mean).


    Both participation and making a difference were themes that strongly emerged from people’s statements of their motivations. “I hope to” comments related to participation included “do something for the community,” “actually do something concrete,” and “discover my potential role.” Other responses focused on the social aspects of participation in RISE. Sixteen respondents mentioned meeting people or connecting with people as a motivation with “I hope to” statements such as “meet other people,” “make new friends,” “socialization,” “make connections,” “meet like-minded people,” and “be part of a group.” While themes of respect were not explicitly mentioned, they are perhaps reflected in the desire for group belonging and social connection emerging from these comments.

    Themes of making a difference were mentioned sixty times by our seventy-nine participants and included words such as “service” and “helping.” Examples of “I hope to” statements include “serve the community,” “have the feeling of actually doing something concrete to help,” “satisfaction from making a difference,” “help where I can,” and “I think at this stage of life, one devotes oneself to meaningful service.”

    Another theme that emerged from the qualitative data was community/local issues, mentioned eighteen times. This theme is consistent with the notions that a small-scale local focus facilitates participation and that involvement in immediate local issues enhances the ability to make an authentic difference. Participants’ “I hope to” comments included “more involvement in the life of the community,” “learn more about my community,” “awareness of what’s going on in the local area,” “protect my immediate environment,” “do something for the community,” “serve community,” and “give back to community.”

    Analysis of the qualitative data, though modest, reflects a clear synergy between participants’ motivations and RPM themes. Next, we examine quantitative data to consider whether participation in the RISE program is associated with changes in key outcomes.

    Outcomes Associated with RISE Participation: Quantitative Pre— and Postdata

    To examine the effects of the RISE program, ninety participants completed a series of quantitative scales regarding generativity, social relationships, and proenvironmental orientation before and after the program. All surveys were administered by a telephone interviewer.


    Generativity, which refers to making a contribution to society and doing things to benefit future generations, is our operationalization of “making a difference.” Generativity is measured using the six-item scale from the Mid-life in the United States study (MIDUS) with response options from 4 to 1, where 4 = “describes me a lot” and 1 = “describes me not at all.” Items (see Appendix) include “You feel that other people need you” and “You have important skills you can pass along to others.” Scores on generativity increased significantly from pretest to posttest, from 3.11 to 3.24, t(84) = 2.97, p<.005 (Figure 10.2).

    Figure 10.2. Generativity and social integration scores for RISE participants, pretest and posttest.
    Figure 10.2. Generativity and social integration scores for RISE participants, pretest and posttest.

    Social Integration was measured using the six-item Social Integration Scale (Cutrona, 1982) that includes items such as “I do not have close relationships with other people” and “I am with a group of people who think the same way I do about things” (see Appendix for all items). This scale enables us to assess whether there are changes in social connections, which was often mentioned among motivations for volunteering and characterizes one aspect of “participation” in RPM. From pretest to posttest, data from RISE participants indicates a significant increase in social integration (from 3.13 to 3.22, t[80]=2.50, p<.05; see Figure 10.2).

    In addition to generativity and social integration, we examined pre- to postchanges in proenvironmental orientation using the fifteen-item New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) Scale (Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, & Jones, 2000). However, comparison of pre- and postscores showed no significant change possibly due to ceiling effect, since environmental attitude scores were quite high from the start.

    Our preliminary examination of qualitative and quantitative data suggests that retired environmental volunteers’ motivations are in sync with core components of RPM, reflecting in particular a strong desire to learn and expand their cognitive maps of environmental issues; use their time and knowledge to contribute, to make a difference to the community; and connect socially with others. Our quantitative findings confirm that two of these motivations were satisfied through participation in RISE: participants’ sense of making a difference or generativity; and increased social connection or social integration. The indication that participant motivations are realized bodes well for the long-term success of the RISE model. Research suggests that volunteerism programs that rely primarily on altruism may be less likely to achieve long-term volunteer commitment than programs that recognize and meet motives based in “selfish altruism”—in other words, recognizing that participants should benefit, whether or not they make a commitment to an organization out of purely selfless motives (De Young, 2000; Kaplan, 2000; Omoto & Snyder, 2002).

    Conclusions and Next Steps

    This preliminary examination of the RISE program suggests several positive results. RISE participants exhibit an increase from before to after the program in both generativity, or a feeling of making a difference, and social integration, two themes that figure prominently in their initial motivations. Moreover, our analysis suggests that the RISE program closely reflects RPM principles, which provide a useful conceptual framework and model of change for the program. Motivations of participants, program structure and procedures, and participant outcomes all reflect RPM components.

    However, further investigation is necessary. A promising next step is to rigorously test the effects of the RISE program using a randomized controlled trial in which volunteers are randomly assigned to one of two or more volunteer programs, including perhaps a waiting-list control group. The RISE program has been developed over several years using a series of small experiments—implementing the program on a small scale, with just fifteen participants in one community and then two or three communities per year. Rather than quickly launching the program on a large scale, a more feedback-sensitive, incremental approach has been adopted. With each implementation, the program developers experiment—both formally and informally—to consider issues such as group size, effective order of activities during SEAL leadership training sessions, optimal duration of the program, whether some presentations might be videotaped rather than given live, and whether capstone project topics should be selected by participants or identified by organizers. Moving forward, we will continue to test and fine-tune RISE, examining both immediate outcomes following completion of the program and longer-term outcomes, months or years later, to understand more clearly the durable effects of the program and how program graduates put their newfound knowledge and skills to use within their communities. The aim, ultimately, is to launch the program on a broader scale.

    As the RISE model is further developed and expanded, there are three key challenges to be considered: (1) scaling up, (2) context and audience diversity, and (3) program sustainability. Ultimately, we might move toward scaling up the RISE program to reach a wider audience. To do so while not compromising the fidelity of the program requires providing a balance of both structure and flexibility. This will require a core tool kit of RISE components so that both program facilitators and participants in a given locale have a clear mental model of the program while also ensuring that activities encourage participation and are anchored in local issues.

    Second, while RISE has been successful in reaching a wide cross section of older adults with respect to education level, political orientation, and income level, RISE has primarily been implemented in rural and suburban areas usually in proximity to a college or university, which is a source of local experts. As a result, we have not had an ethnically diverse group of participants. To engage a wider diversity of RISE participants, future implementations of the program ought to occur in urban areas and in other regions of the United States where more ethnically diverse older populations reside.

    A third challenge to be addressed as RISE develops concerns the establishment of a program that is sustainable and has longevity. We will begin to follow cohorts of RISE participants from one year to the next. The hope is that within individual communities, RISE might evolve to become a sort of ongoing stewardship club. Participants who have already completed the RISE program in their first year might opt to attend some of the class sessions and field trips but would not be required to do so. The focus, beyond the classes, is then on partnering with organizations and tackling local environmental challenges (see also Bardwell, Chapter 7; Gallagher, Chapter 8; Grese, Chapter 19), with a mix of new and experienced members working together. As the RISE program evolves in this way, sequencing of classes may be appropriate, with miniworkshops for participants who have graduated from the initial year of training. The approach might be similar to the sequence of classes described by Gallagher (Chapter 8) as part of the Ford Vitality model aimed at building capacity of individuals, community organizations, and collaborations. Ultimately, program graduates might serve as ambassadors, helping to recruit new participants and suggesting new stewardship project opportunities.

    The aging population offers a sizable and largely untapped resource for environmental volunteerism. However, to cultivate satisfied volunteers who make long-term commitments to environmental organizations, it is essential to meet the informational, social, and psychological needs of volunteers. RPM provides a structure for the creation of rewarding volunteer opportunities that will engage retirees in meaningful work and help to address urgent environmental crises facing our planet.


    Generativity scale. The six items used to measure generativity in Table 10.A were derived from the Loyola Generativity Scale (LGS) and have been used in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) ( by Rossi (2001). This index of generativity is a strong predictor of prosocial behavior and has a Cronbach alpha of .84.

    TABLE 10.A Generativity
    We are interested in understanding what influence you might have on others as a result of your participation in environmentalism. Please indicate the extent each of the following statements describes you by circling the number corresponding to your answer.
    Describes me . . .A lotSomeA littleNot at all
    Others would say that you have made unique contributions to society.4321
    You have important skills you can pass along to others.4321
    Many people come to you for advice.4321
    You feel that other people need you.4321
    You have had a good influence on the lives of many.4321
    You like to teach things.4321
    TABLE 10.B Social Integration
    The following are statements about relationship with other people. Please indicate how much each statement describes your situation by circling the number corresponding to your answer.
    Strongly DisagreeDisagreeAgreeStrongly Agree
    I do not have close relationships with other people.1234
    There are people who like the same social activities as I do.1234
    I am with a group of people who think the same way I do about things.1234
    There is no one who has the same interests and concerns as me.1234
    I feel a strong emotional tie with at least one other person.1234
    There is no one who likes to do the things I do.1234

    Social integration. Social integration is measured in Table 10.B using the five-item social integration subscale of the Cutrona Social Provisions Scale. This instrument has good reliability and predictive validity (Cutrona, 1982;


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    This research was supported with funding by the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (Hatch funds) (#NYC-327–465) and the Cornell Cooperative Extension (Smith Lever funds) from the National Institutes for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA; the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Academic Ventures Fund; and an Edward R. Roybal Center grant from the National Institute on Aging (1P30AG022845). We are grateful to current and former project collaborators Rhoda H. Meador, Leslie Schultz, Lori Brewer, and Linda P. Wagenet.