One of the most engaging activities that presents a number of health benefits for seniors, while helping others in the process, is volunteering.
A review of 45 years’ worth of studies on this topic showed that seniors who volunteer around 100 hours per year (2-3 hours per week) are in better physical and mental health because of it. Bannister Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing would like to share with you four ways that volunteering can not only improve the quality of your life but extend it as well.
Lower Blood Pressure
A Carnegie Mellon University study found that people over 50 who were active in volunteering had less of a risk of developing high blood pressure. This is due to two factors. One, those who volunteer are likely more physically active than others. Two, people feel better while volunteering and likely carry around less stress many people.
Less Risk of Depression
One of the studies included in the link above shows that most people who were suffering from one or more symptoms of depression felt better after volunteering for a year. Overall, 70 percent said they had fewer symptoms of depression after the year-long period. For those who reported more than three symptoms of depression, 63 percent had fewer symptoms a year later after becoming active volunteers.
Increased Sense of Purpose
Retirees who don’t have adult children may be searching for a sense of identity now that they are done working and no longer raising children. Volunteering, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with it, is healthy and provides a motivating factor to stay well. Many seniors can use the skills they acquired throughout their life – a teacher or carpenter, for example – and apply it to their volunteering activities.
Loneliness among seniors is a major problem. Volunteering can not only provide an outlet to help others, but it can allow seniors to make new friends and have a social situation to look forward to on a regular basis.
There are few things that have overwhelming positive effects for all parties involved like volunteering. If you are interested but unsure where to start, call your local church or your community’s senior center for ideas.