Almost 44 percent of Americans over the age of 55 spend time volunteering, many of them spending over four hours a week doing so. They cite the desire to give back to the community, to offer help to those less fortunate, and to keep physically active. But such service also comes with a neurological benefit. The act of giving of one’s time and talents slows cognitive decline and decreases the rate of depression in older adults.
Slowing Down Cognitive Decline Improves All Areas of Life
Volunteering makes people feel good, and if it can also have a positive effect on the body and brain during aging, it seems like a situation where everyone wins. The psychosocial benefit of volunteering cannot be discounter. Seniors who volunteer say they feel like they are working for the greater good and report feeling less lonely. The benefits reach beyond the individual, too. When seniors volunteer, family caregivers find they have less stress and more free time for outside interests. In return, those caregivers state they’ve seen improvement in their own mental and physical health.
Reaping the Benefits
Seniors who remain active and maintain cognitive function longer have an increased likelihood to lead longer, more independent lives. If older people take up volunteering, which can be both a social and charitable activity, they are more apt to maintain their health and their mental well-being. Sustaining wellness in these areas keeps the mind sharp and helps seniors be more self-sufficient later in life. Healthier, happier senior citizens put less of a burden on an already overwhelmed health care system, and lowering seniors’ medical costs will have a positive ripple effect on their financial health, as well.
Finding Ways to Volunteer
Often, senior citizens can find opportunities for community service in the fields from which they’re retired. These could be literacy programs for former teachers, or construction projects for retired engineers or builders. Many towns have senior citizens clubs which undertake service projects, and other seniors take the opportunity to volunteer through their houses of worship. Seniors are becoming more internet-savvy as well, which opens up an even broader scope of volunteering possibilities.
There’s a plethora of service opportunities in local communities and with larger organizations, and given the proven mental and physical benefits of volunteerism, seniors should be encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities. Not only will it prove to be a great way to maintain independence, but it will positively impact the brain’s wellness, as well.