Health Benefits Of Doing Good
Over the past two decades a growing body of research has indicated that volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to societal benefits. Numerous studies have shown those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
It’s the ultimate win-win: Doing good for others benefits yourself at the same time. What’s not to like?
Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive the greatest benefits from volunteering, because it provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing and often becoming more circumscribed.
Dr. John Verheul, M.D., MPH, a primary care physician who is affiliated with SignatureMD, has a special focus in geriatrics. He has seen first-hand the benefits of his senior-aged patients getting involved in activities and participating in organizations by sharing with others the wealth of their accumulated skills and knowledge. Here are his thoughts on why community volunteering is a good health strategy.
What are the benefits of community service to personal health?
- It is good for mental health. The National Institute on Aging has reported that participating in social leisure activities and meaningful, productive activities such as volunteering may lower the risk of health problems in seniors, including dementia, as well as improving longevity. Volunteering keeps your brain and body active, contributing to continued cognitive health.
- It helps prevent isolation and depression. Not only does volunteering get you out of the house and out of your comfort zone, it has a positive effect on psychological wellness. It nurtures a sense of purpose and a feeling of accomplishment. Such socialization helps people to stop internalizing and take their mind off their own issues. They become a part of a group and feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way.
- It promotes healthy physical activity. Maintaining a healthy level of physical fitness as we age helps ward off disease, injury and even dementia. Community service exposes you to natural and different elements and people and allows you to try new activities that you may find enjoyable – and there’s nothing better than being joyful, now is there?
Great Community Volunteer Opportunities
There is a universe of nonprofit organizations that thrive on volunteer help. Here some different kinds to consider.
- Humane Societies and Animal Shelters – Always in need of more volunteers, local animal shelters, pet rescue centers and humane societies host tons of fundraising events, need help with administrative tasks, and more. If you’ve got the time and space, consider acting as a “foster” for a dog or cat who needs a temporary home, while they find a permanent one.
- Organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters – These organizations give adult volunteers (“bigs”) the chance to build lasting one-on-one relationships with children in need of caring adults in their lives. This also allows them to pass down their knowledge, experiences and stories, which for senior citizens can be very therapeutic, and as a result you’ve taught a child something new.
- Local Hospital – The children’s wing of hospitals rely on volunteers to help tutor, host story time, and monitor playrooms and playtime among other responsibilities. Children bring joy, and many retirees’ live long distances away from their grandchildren – this fills that void.
- Food Pantries – As people age, they can develop a “shell” or become shy about participating in things. Learning to socialize and be a part of something with a goal or purpose helps to break that. Food pantries and soup kitchens can always use a helping hand organizing a local food drive, raising money, or simply handing out hot meals to those in need.
- http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf. THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING – A REVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH.
- http://www.insurewiseins.com/news/2013/04/national-community-service-month. National Community Service Month.
- http://nationalservice.tumblr.com/. National & Community Service Official Blog.
- http://seniorcommunity.org/. Senior Community Services – Reimagine Aging.
- http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/9-26-14-reasons-seniors-volunteer/. 5 Reasons Seniors Should Volunteer Their Time.
- http://www.nia.nih.gov/. National Institute on Aging.
- https://signaturemd.com/concierge-physicians/johnverheulmd/. Dr. John Verheul, MD, MPH, SignatureMD Landing Page.