Seniors, it’s ‘good to be good’ in Joliet

We would all agree that volunteering is good, but research from the past two decades has found that volunteering is also good for you. For seniors, donating time is especially beneficial, because there is a convincing relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

Also, comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering. It seems volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.

According to a report from Corporation for National and Community Service titled The Health Benefits Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research:

  • a study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities;
  • another study found that volunteering led to lower rates of depression in individuals 65 and older;
  • a Duke study found that individuals who volunteered after experiencing heart attacks reported reductions in despair and depression – two factors that that have been linked to mortality in post-coronary artery disease patients;
  • an analysis of longitudinal data found that individuals over 70 who volunteered approximately 100 hours per year had less of a decline in self-reported health and functioning levels, experienced lower levels of depression, and had more longevity;

“This is good news for people who volunteer,” said Robert Grimm, Director of the Corporation’s Office of Research and Policy Development and Senior Counselor to the CEO. “This research is particularly relevant to Baby Boomers, who are receiving as well as giving when they help others. Just two hours of volunteering a week can bring meaningful benefits to a person’s body and mind.”

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. It increases self-confidence and provides a natural sense of accomplishment. It gives a senior pride and identity. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation.

Volunteering keeps a senior in regular contact with others and helps develop a solid support system, which in turn protects against stress and depression when going through challenging times. In addition, volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life – that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

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