We've all heard the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” That message seems to be right on point when it comes to serving as a volunteer. There is something special about making a commitment and then taking time to serve others that makes us all feel good.
In an article published by Harvard Health, “Adults over 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.” The good news for our older adults, keeping your blood pressure in check is vital to prevent heart disease, stroke and premature death.
The findings from a BMC Public Health research study confirm there are healthy benefits derived from volunteering. They believe volunteering should be promoted by public health, education and policy practitioners as a type of healthy lifestyle, especially for elders, ethnic minorities, single people and the unemployed, who generally have poorer health and less participation in volunteering.
There are many benefits that come from working as a volunteer for every age group especially those who are 50 and over. Before you commit to the task, it is helpful to think about who you want to help and how much time you can contribute weekly. No matter if it is 2-10 hours per week, it will go a long way in helping improve your health. Just spending time tutoring young children, you will experience positive mental stimulation from the additional reading and studying which will improve your memory and thinking skills. On the other hand, let's say you volunteer for outside activities with the local Boy's and Girl's Club, the additional movement and exercise will improve your cardiovascular well being.
How to get started - Make a plan and put it in action. Think about helping out in areas you might enjoy. I personally like to work in areas that I'm passionate about. If you want to help kids, consider the local YMCA, Boy's and Girl's Club, or Children's Hospital. If you are passionate about helping seniors, you can partner up with the local senior center, assisted living facility or nursing home. Other areas to consider are your local humane shelter if you enjoy pets, the food bank with a record number of American's going hungry, or the local hospital if you relish serving those in need.
Healthy benefits - The research shows that volunteering provides many healthy benefits that you might experience while serving others. These are a few that you might expect from giving your time and effort:
- Social Connections - Volunteering allows you meet others and build new relationships. By participating in shared activities, you have the opportunity to make new friends and improve existing relationships.
- Improves your mental and physical state - Volunteering reduces stress. Helping others gives a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. By helping someone else, it will promote a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have.
- Makes us feel good - Research shows that volunteering builds social interaction and lowers the rate of depression for our older adults.
- Sense of pride and purpose - Knowing your work matters by taking time to help those in need or the less fortunate creates a sense of sense of self worth and purpose.
Whether you are working full time, part time or are retired, taking time to serve as a volunteer is such an integral part of the successful aging process. If you decide to take the plunge down the volunteer path, it makes good sense to contact your physician to ensure you are up to the physical activity that may be involved.