The good news keeps coming in: volunteering not only contributes to good physical health as we age, but also good mental health and happiness as well. A recent study, led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, is the first to examine peer-reviewed evidence regarding the psychosocial health benefits of formal volunteering for older adults.
A team of Canadian and American academics examined 73 studies published over the last 45 years that measured psychosocial, physical and/or cognitive outcomes associated with formal volunteering, such as happiness, physical health, depression, cognitive functioning, feelings of social support and life satisfaction. The Benefits Associated With Volunteering Among Seniors: A Critical Review and Recommendations for Future Research reinforces and adds to other research that suggests why volunteering is part of an active, healthy lifestyle. This research found that volunteering can help reduce depression and is linked to better overall health and longevity, and that seniors with a chronic health condition appear to benefit even more from volunteering than their healthier peers.
If you enlist seniors in volunteering, here’s one more important thing to remember: make sure that your older volunteers know how valuable their service is. The study found that aging volunteers who felt needed and appreciated developed an even better sense of wellbeing from volunteering.
Know a senior who could use the boost that volunteering brings? Reading with children is one of the best things we can do to help young students learn to read and enjoy success in school and might be just the right activity for the senior in your life. Your local United Way can help you find a myriad of volunteer opportunities for friends and family of all ages.
Learn more about the health benefits of volunteering: