OAKLAND — Now that John Doolittle is retired, he won't be playing golf, gardening or driving around the county in a recreational vehicle.

He will be working in South Africa with the Peace Corps.

Once a popular program for

20-somethings straight out of college, the corps now is attracting retirees and others past the age of 50 who want to make a difference.

Doolittle, 66, of Dublin will complete three months of Peace Corps training in South Africa before going on a two-year volunteer assignment as an adviser to non-governmental organizations in the country.

He is one of many older citizens targeted by the Peace Corps' nationwide campaign to recruit more seniors and baby boomers.

Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter wanted to look into new resources and introduced the initiative in an effort to tap into the experience and knowledge of older potential volunteers.

Though the median age of Peace Corps volunteers is 25, the corps now boasts 382 volunteers over the age of 50.

While there is no upper age limit, the Peace Corps does require all volunteers to be in good health.

Doolittle, a former financial compliance director for Kaiser Permanente, said people his age are healthier than ever and more financially stable, making them perfect candidates.

"The current 60 is the new 40," he said.

As for the quick turnaround, Doolittle said it was a matter of scheduling as the South Africa group he was assigned to leaves on Monday.


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Bie Bostrom, 65, of Walnut Creek spent two years in Kenya before returning home last November. Bostrom, who grew up in Belgium, said she never worried about her health because safety is the Peace Corps' number one priority.

Although her work teaching micro financing was not easy, Bostrom never regretted the decision to go. She said she still keeps in contact with friends she's made.

"Things over there are so primitive. It gets to what's important in life," she said.

Eighty-one-year-old Berkeley resident Margaret Pratley recently completed a Peace Corps assignment in Thailand, which made her the oldest active volunteer at the time.

Volunteer work in the Peace Corps can also lead to careerchanges, even for those who may think it is too late.

Nick Bosustow and his wife, Julie, were on assignment in Guatemala when they were in their late 50s.

Since then, Nick Bosustow, 67, has taken a job with the Peace Corps as the San Francisco regional recruiter. Bosustow, an Academy Award-winning animation producer, said the experience gave him a satisfaction he could not get in Hollywood.

"For the first time I was seeing real people, doing real work, for a real reason," he said.

Doolittle, who volunteered at home for two years after graduating from Cornell, can relate. He wants to end his career the same way he started it.

"I love the work," he said. "I thought it would be nice bookends to my career."

With a lifetime of volunteer work and a renewed vigor, Doolittle might have to change his name to "Doo-lots."

Tschetter will be a guest speaker at "Volunteer at Any Age: Stories of Peace Corps Volunteers Age 50 and Above" at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at the San Francisco Public Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin St.

For more information on the Peace Corps, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov.

Chris Vongsarath can be reached at (925) 416-4818 or at cvongsarath@trivalleyherald.com.