Volunteering has a positive effect on everyone: the volunteers, the recipients of their care, and the community overall. New studies show that volunteering benefits seniors specifically – and not as benefactors of volunteer programs, but as the volunteers themselves.
Volunteering Keeps Your Body Healthy
Exercise is a huge part of maintaining physical health, but you don’t have to lift weights or go for a run. Simple daily movements like walking and interacting with others are enough to keep seniors sufficiently active. As we grow older, our lifestyles tend to become increasingly sedentary, giving rise to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. These simple, low-impact activities of regular volunteering can also help reduce common risks.
It Keeps Your Mind Healthy, Too
You don’t have to play brain-teaser games or solve puzzles to stay sharp. The National Institute on Aging has reported that engaging in activities like volunteering can help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. Even regularly participating in conversation has been shown to have a positive effect. Social volunteering helps preserve current levels of brain function, and can even increase brain power.
Volunteering Makes You Happy
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteers experience greater life satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and accomplishment, more stress resilience, and lower rates of depression. Remaining alone, as many seniors do, increases a sense of isolation and can cause depression. Engaging not just in any activity, but meaningful activity can dramatically improve psychological wellbeing, giving seniors a sense of purpose.
Volunteering Increases Longevity
In a remarkable study from the University of Michigan, researchers surveyed 1,211 adults over the age of 65 (most of them retirees) and checked back with them eight years later. People who spent at least 40 hours a year volunteering were 40 percent more likely to live to the end of the research period than those who didn’t volunteer. Even taking into account differences in the two groups’ incomes, health, and number of weekly social interactions didn’t change the outcome. However, focus appears to make a difference: spreading attention over multiple activities did not give volunteers an advantage in longevity compared to those who focused on just one volunteer activity.
It Doesn’t Stop With You
Seniors who volunteer interact with younger generations who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hang out with people much older than them. This is especially true for teenagers and college students, whose only interaction with older generations is usually as subordinates rather than as equals or even friends. It’s a wonderful chance for seniors to pass on a little wisdom and bridge the generation gap. It also helps change the way a community thinks about older adults, drawing more attention and focus to their lives and issues. It even has the possibility to prevent age discrimination.
There are many services designed specifically for seniors to connect them with volunteer opportunities. Check out the organizations RSVP, Foster Grandparents, the Senior Companion Program, and Seniors Helping Seniors to find an opportunity near you. Freedom Home Care also offers many in home services and support for seniors, feel free to contact us anytime at (877) 262-1223.