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Offers Numerous Health Benefits to Seniors
report titled “Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of
Recent Research” has linked volunteering and good health. Based
on a compilation of previous studies, the report showed that volunteers
have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of
depression and less incidence of heart disease.
“Volunteering makes the heart grow stronger,” said David Eisner,
CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). “More than
61 million Americans volunteer to improve conditions for people in need and to
unselfishly give of themselves. While the motivation is altruistic, it is gratifying
to learn that their efforts are returning considerable health benefits.”
Of particular significance was the finding that volunteering is especially beneficial
to the health of senior citizens, especially those donating 100 hours or more
According to the report, a study of adults age 65 and older, the positive effects
of volunteerism on physical and mental health is due to a personal sense of accomplishment
gained from various volunteer activities.
Volunteers over age 65 also had lower rates of depression while those over age
70 that volunteered approximately 100 hours also had less of a decline in self-reported
health and functioning levels. Those that volunteered after experiencing heart
attacks reported reduced despair and depression.
Findings of the study don’t surprise local agencies serving senior volunteers. “Volunteers
who are spending some time involved in a cause spend less time worrying because
they are out doing stuff,” said Carolyn Kneedler, volunteer coordinator
for RSVP in Sacramento. “It’s healthy to interact with people — especially
new people. Volunteers get to do that.”
The report also found that the “volunteering threshold” is about
100 hours yearly, the equivalent of approximately two hours a week. Individuals
near the threshold are enjoying significant health benefits. Most seniors have
little difficulty reaching that mark, in Kneedler’s experience.
“I’ve noticed that people who volunteer at one place are more likely
to add more volunteer opportunities to their life,” she explained.
The report documents major findings from more than 30 rigorous studies that reviewed
the relationship between health and volunteering, with particular emphasis on
studies seeking to determine the causal connection between the two factors. The
findings were quick to receive national attention.
“This is good news for people who volunteer,” said Robert Grimm,
director of the CNCS Office of Research and Policy Development. “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.”
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