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The ‘happiness effect’ among the hidden benefits of volunteering

The Village at Kentlands and Lakelands needs you

Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park
This column is devoted to older residents of Kentlands & Lakelands (i.e., people 55 and older). We will be discussing a variety of topics including information on programs sponsored by The Village at Kentlands and Lakelands, other events, important resources that benefit older people and other relevant news. We welcome your feedback on how we are doing and suggestions for topics.
Volunteering: Hidden Benefits
The Village is growing and we continue to need more dedicated volunteers. What is important to note is that volunteering can be very beneficial to your health. Some call it the “happiness effect.” We call it reasons to become a Village Volunteer.
There is a growing body of health research showing that older adults who are engaged in social and community activities maintain both their physical and mental health for significantly more years than other older adults (Luoh and Herzog, 2002).
Volunteering or “unpaid work for or through an organization” (Population Reference Bureau, August 2011) has a multitude of benefits such as decreasing depression, reducing stress, aiding in staying physically and mentally active, feeling connected to your community and heightening your sense of self-worth. Volunteering also provides services to those in need of help—permanently or sporadically. In an era of shrinking government resources combined with a population swell of Americans over 55, the percentage of people both needing and wanting to maintain social connections will continue to increase.
After seeing the benefits of volunteering, researchers are now asking what are the specific characteristics of volunteering that provide the greatest benefits (Harvard Health Blog, October, 2015)? For example: how much time volunteering would you need to lower your blood pressure? Studies have shown that as little as 100 hours per year can have a positive impact. Reports also demonstrate that mentally stimulating activities may be helpful for maintaining memory and thinking skills (Harvard Health Blog, October, 2015).
This is only a summary of the hidden benefits of volunteering. Keep in mind that a vital component of healthy aging is that you maintain a sense of fulfillment in your life. As you map out the various opportunities for volunteering, what could be more vital and fulfilling than helping others and possibly adding more healthy years to your life? As Aristotle said, “The essence of life is to serve others and do good.” For starters, we suggest looking in your own neighborhood for volunteer opportunities. Check us out at our website or call 240-449-9002.
The Village at Kentlands & Lakelands is a neighbors-helping-neighbors program serving residents aged 55 and older and those of any age with disabilities, helping them with transportation, small household chores, referrals to community resources, access to lifelong learning programs and many fun social activities. Our goal is to help you thrive at any age in your own home!

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