Program Overview

CITRA’s Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) Program is an environmental education and leadership training program for adults over 60. RISE responds to the intersection of two critical trends – mounting concern about environmental sustainability and the growing aging population. Retirees are an underutilized resource who have the time, talent, and skills to help address issues like climate change, air and water pollution, waste management, and the protection of natural areas. The RISE Program is based on the best available research evidence and practices in the field, including an extensive program evaluation conducted at Cornell University.

Goals & Objectives of the Program

The primary goal of RISE is to create environmental leaders (also known as environmental stewards) who will play an active role in addressing environmental issues in their communities. RISE seeks to create a new pool of environmental volunteers to address pressing environmental issues and to provide new opportunities and roles for retirees to engage with their communities.

Structure of the Program

The RISE Program provides about 30 hours of training over an eight-week period. The training is divided into three different components, including a full-day introductory workshop, six weekly environmental workshops, and a capstone stewardship project in the community.

Benefits of the Program

RISE provides leadership and communication skill training to improve participants’ effectiveness as environmental volunteers. The program provides factual knowledge from expert speakers about pressing environmental issues such as climate change, water quality, soil contaminants, waste management, and energy use. RISE is a hands-on learning experience, including field trips and a capstone stewardship project to benefit the local community. Not only does the RISE Program provide environmental benefits to local communities, it provides potential health benefits to participating older adults – including physical activity and exposure to nature – as well as the chance to improve the world for future generations.

Planning & Implementing the Program

CITRA has created a manual for facilitators to conduct the RISE Program in their own communities. The manual provides an overview of the goals and activities of the RISE Program and describes all the exercises in detail. It also includes handouts and other resources and materials designed to help with the delivery of the program. Sponsoring organizations should have experience in conducting community-based educational programs, including participant and speaker recruitment. They should also have familiarity with older adult learning styles. We have learned that the program works best when sponsored by two collaborating organizations, ideally one organization involved in environmental education and one organization that serves older adults.

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