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Volunteering Does the Mind and Body Good

Volunteering Does the Mind and Body Good

When you volunteer, you are not only doing a good deed for others, but simultaneously doing a good deed for your mental and physical health.

April 15 through April 21 is National Volunteer Week, and ATRIO Health Plans is taking this opportunity to let seniors know that they – more than any other age group – should embrace volunteerism.

Consider this bounty of benefits volunteering can bring to older adults:

  • Improves physical health – According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, those over age 50 who volunteered regularly were at decreased risk for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, angina, and peripheral artery disease. Volunteering often involves a degree of physical activity, and physical activity contributes to positive health outcomes, particularly as you age.
  • Increases brain function and psychological health – The National Institute on Aging reports that volunteering promotes brain activity and improves a person's cognitive health. As a result, volunteering may reduce the risk of developing dementia. Research also indicates a connection between volunteering and improved psychological health. For example, a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that individuals who participated in volunteer activities experienced a lower incidence of depression compared to those who did not volunteer.

The psychological benefits of volunteering can be particularly impactful for seniors with chronic medical conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and heart disease. For example, studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of seniors with chronic conditions say a primary reason they volunteer is to reduce feelings of depression associated with their chronic conditions. Among adults age 65 and older who regularly volunteer, another study found that fully 98 percent reported feeling better emotionally.

  • Brings generations closer – Many volunteer activities pair older adults with children and teens for tutoring, mentoring and other activities. These pairings benefit both sides of the age equation. For their part, seniors can share their knowledge, skills, and wisdom acquired over a lifetime. Those in the younger-generation category can introduce seniors to new technology and contemporary thinking on a wide range of topics.
  • Enhances self-confidence – A Wharton College study found that people who share their time and talents through volunteering feel more confident, capable, and useful. Apparently, the positivity experienced while volunteering spills over and enhances the person's life overall.
  • Renews a sense of purpose – Some older adults who are retired report feeling less useful and that they're not contributing to their family, community, or society in general. If their days are largely unscheduled and their to-do lists sparse at best, some seniors shy away from social interaction, which can lead to isolation and depression. Volunteerism can be an effective antidote. Not only does volunteering provide a sense of purpose, but it also involves social interaction, which can boost both mental and physical fitness.

It's never too late to become a volunteer. A good way to get started is by visiting the Senior Corps website.

Sources:

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/health-benefits-volunteering-seniors-fd.html

https://www.medicarefaq.com/blog/volunteering-positively-benefits-seniors/

https://www.salutetoseniorservice.com/volunteering-seniors/benefits/

https://seniorcommunity.org/five-benefits-volunteering-retirement/

https://ww2.pointsoflight.org/nvw