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Volunteer for Health Benefits and Help Society Too

Volunteering Improves the Health of Seniors

By

Updated March 16, 2009

Tutoring

Tutoring

Photo: Andersen Ross / Getty Images
Volunteering is often suggested as a useful activity for seniors to be involved in -- an activity that benefits both society and the seniors’ own health. Seniors have a great deal of knowledge and experience, and sharing that with younger people is traditional role for the seniors in society. By volunteering, seniors become more engaged in their world and reap health benefits. Until recently, those health benefits have been hard to define or list.

Researchers decided to take on the question of what health benefits, exactly, there were for seniors who volunteered and shared their own knowledge and experience. They used seniors who were members of Experience Corps, an organizations that trains people over 55 to tutor children.

Researchers found that active Experience Corps members reported, compared to other people the same age, improvements in mental health and physical functioning. They also seemed to delay the onset of age-related health problems. Importantly, Experience Corp members reported higher self-esteem and more connectivity with other people.

Some other findings of the studies (see the sources below for more information) included:

  • a lower risk of depression
  • fewer physical limitations
  • less decline in health due to aging
  • increases in physical activity
  • more engagement in the community
  • an increase in their number of friends
  • feeling their life is improving
  • improvements in memory

Find Our More About Experience Corps

You can find out more about Experience Corps from their website. They take volunteers age 55 and older and train them to be tutors in city schools. They also help with the logistics and details of tutoring. The time commitment can vary and there are many options for participation.

Find Other Ways to Volunteer

Experience Corps is an excellent program, but it is by no means the only way to get these benefits. In my opinion, the key ingredients are engaging with other people, meeting new people, doing meaningful work and challenging yourself. Any activity that forces you to do that can be great. Make sure that the activity includes lots of upbeat interaction with other people and a commitment level that fits into your lifestyle.

Source(s):

Morrow-Howell, N., Hong, S.-I., McCrary, S., Blinne, W. (2009). Experience Corps: Health outcomes of participation (CSD Research Brief 09-09). St. Louis: Washington University, Center for Social Development.

Tan EJ, Xue QL, Li T, Carlson MC, Fried LP. Volunteering: a physical activity intervention for older adults--The Experience Corps program in Baltimore. J Urban Health. 2006 Sep;83(5):954-69.

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