Skip to main content

History of RSVP

Senior Corps was formed from a merge of its constituent programs, Foster Grandparents, RSVP, and Senior Companions.  The three were originally mandated under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 with similar aims.  When the Corporation for National and Community Service was formed by then-president Bill Clinton in 1993, the three organizations were reformed into a single agency--Senior Corps.  The three national Senior Corps programs – Foster Grandparents, RSVP, and Senior Companions – have unique histories, and each was developed to meet a specific need. But all were crafted on the same belief that older adults are valuable resources to their communities.

RSVP began as an outgrowth by private groups and government agencies to create opportunities of engagement, activity, and growth for older Americans. One of the earliest programs, the Community Service Society of New York, began in 1965 on Staten Island. The project involved a small group of volunteers who were dedicated to serving their communities in a variety of ways. It was due to the success of their efforts that led to an amendment to the Older Americans Act, creating RSVP as a nationwide program in 1969.

The Foster Grandparent Program was piloted on August 28, 1965, to entice low income people over 60 in community service. The program quickly revealed the positive impact these thriving older Americans have on exceptional and special needs children and grew in scope.

In 1968, the Senior Companion Program began as part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and Administration on Aging. Five years later, President Richard Nixon asked Congress to expand the role of low-income older volunteers who provide personal services to others. Seven months later, the Senior Companion Program was signed into law.

RSVP began July 1, 1973, along with 660 programs nationwide and has been housed on the SUNY Oswego campus since inception.  Mature Living was first published in September 1974.  In the 1980’s federal funding for RSVP programs doubled to 30 million, with 750 programs nationwide.  President George W. Bush initiated Presidential Lifetime Achievement Awards.  In the 1990’s President Clinton made national service a priority and launched AmeriCorps, moving both programs from under “ACTION,” to the Corporation for National & Community Service.  RSVP age eligibility was lowered to 55 and our name was changed to Retired and Senior Volunteer Program signifying the inclusion of people still in the work force.

On September 29, 2020, The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) launched a new brand strategy, complete with a new visual identity and agency name. The brand strategy includes changing the agency's name from the "Corporation for National and Community Service" to "AmeriCorps".  Additionally, as part of the new brand strategy, Senior Corps, the branch crafted for volunteer programs specifically for those age 55 and older, changed their name from "Senior Corps" to "AmeriCorps Seniors".

The new identity gives the agency the opportunity to increase awareness of volunteer efforts and opportunities in the US for individuals of all ages.

Federal sponsor:  AmeriCorps

New York State:  Office for the Aging

Local Sponsors:  SUNY Oswego and United Way of Greater Oswego County