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Volunteering: The Magic Bullet for Healthy Aging

Senior man volunteering by helping a boy read.
"Volunteering is a magic bullet of sorts to keep seniors both mentally and physically engaged in the world around them, making a difference in the lives of others as well as benefitting their own."

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What’s the secret to keeping older adults from whiling away their days in a rocker? That’s the million dollar question for any senior care professional who has encouraged, cajoled and begged a senior to keep moving.

Inactivity, as many of those who work with seniors know, is one of the biggest obstacles to healthy aging. It appears, though, that a significant motivation to get older adults up and at ’em may come from an unlikely source: helping others.

According to recent research conducted by the Home Instead® network, nearly all senior volunteers surveyed (98 percent) gain a sense of purpose, stay active and feel better physically, mentally and emotionally as a result of their service. Nearly three-fourths are able to overcome feeling isolated (74 percent) and feeling depressed (70 percent).

Seniors with chronic conditions benefit as well, devoting slightly more hours to community service each month when compared with seniors who have no chronic conditions. They are more likely than other seniors to say that their volunteer hours will decrease in the next five years, but they also are more likely to say they plan to continue volunteering “forever.”

“Home Instead network research reveals that volunteering is a magic bullet of sorts to keep seniors both mentally and physically engaged in the world around them, making a difference in the lives of others as well as benefitting their own,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Huber of Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead network.

Other benefits that the senior volunteer survey respondents identified include:

  • I want to help others — 99 percent
  • I want to make a difference in my community — 99 percent
  • I want to provide assistance to causes I care about — 99 percent
  • I feel like my volunteer contributions are appreciated — 98 percent
  • I enjoy volunteering with my friends — 93 percent
  • I want to socialize and meet new people — 92 percent
  • I want to share my talents, skills and experience — 90 percent
  • I enjoy learning new skills — 89 percent
  • I have more time now — 86 percent
  • I want to occupy my free time — 84 percent

Help a senior get started by tapping into interests that may have waned as he or she has grown older. Did she ever volunteer for her church or synagogue? Did he help Habitat for Humanity® build a house? Many of those skills can still be adapted to keep older adults on the move helping others and themselves.

In addition to faith communities, seniors can go to their Area Agency on Aging, Salvation Army, homeless support groups and other nonprofit agencies to investigate volunteer opportunities.

Learn more from the Salute to Senior ServiceSM program, including details about how to nominate a senior volunteer for a Salute to Senior Service Award (between Jan. 15 and March 15, 2012).

Learn more about how one volunteer is making a difference in his community:

Last revised: January 16, 2012

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. January 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Posted by May

    Voluntering is so beneficial to seniors because it gives them an opportunity to give back and help others. I agree that volunteering helps seniors become mentally and physically engaged as well as a sense of self worth.


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