The Glory Days of Outhouses

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A few days after the turn of the new decade, I made a commitment to myself that I would beginning the first few minutes of my waking hour to write 20 things I am grateful for. 

Somedays I struggle with coming up with new and different things despite the fact that I have many, many things to be thankful for.  I have, however, noticed a recurring theme: several times a week I am thankful for indoor plumbing! 

As I began to explore why this may be, childhood memories began to stream like a Hulu Original through my mind.  Memories of creeping down a set of very steep stairs with no railings in the dark of the night and sneaking out onto the grass to take care of business. 

I grew up in the country. My father, with the help of relatives, built our first home. It was small but was adequate for our family of five. Although we had a washroom with a concrete floor, sink and shower, there was no indoor toilet. But my father happily provided our very own outhouse.

The problem was that it was located about 150 yards away from the house and around the side of the barn.  There are no streetlights, of course, in the country. I thought it­­––and I still do––very unreasonable to oblige a young child to trek unaccompanied in the dark to the facilities. If the occasion arose, I simply refused. Thus, the short journey. 

While I cannot recall being afraid of the dark as most young children are, I feared the country critters that reigned in the night, like a skunk or racoon, or possibly an escaped cow. (I had an irrational fear of cows.)  Without even a flashlight to guide my way, it was even more scary. Then there was the possibility I would stumble and fall in! EW!!

Having to endure the use of the outhouse for the first nine years of life until we got a “real” bathroom indoors, it’s no secret why I am continually thankful for indoor plumbing. 

Health Benefits of Being a Senior Corps Volunteer

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Non-profit and faith-based organizations rely heavily on the work and support of volunteers to bring relief a struggling population within local communities.  But a recent study of older adults ––55 years old and over––gives evidence that the volunteer who is consistent in volunteer work for two years or more also improve their own health.  

An independent study released on Feb. 5, 2019, by the Corporation for National and Community Service reflects that after a two-year check in, volunteers claim they are less depressed, healthier, and feel less isolated than before serving as a volunteer. According to Senior Corps, more than 200,000 serve through the Foster Grandparents Program (FGP), Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and/or the Senior Companion Program (SCP). 

Deborah Cox-Roush, Director of of Senior Corps, writes ““I’m thrilled with the release of this independent study because it confirms what we have long believed to be true: Senior Corps volunteers are not only improving the lives of others, they are also improving their own,” … “These volunteers are feeling healthier and less depressed. What’s also exciting is they say they feel less socially isolated, which we know has important health benefits. Along the way, Senior Corps volunteers found a sense of accomplishment, opportunities for personal growth, and chances to form meaningful relationships.”

I chose to volunteer through the RSVP in Redding, CA. In November 2019, I began volunteering at the Mercy Oaks Senior Center where Senior Corps services are offered through Dignity Health Connected Living.  Although I have only just begun, I can report that my personal sense of well-being and fulfillment in life has improved.  I feel less isolated in general. I am making new connections and have been reconnected with long-time acquaintances.

Loneliness and physical isolation in all humans, especially in seniors, has a detrimental effect on health. Humans need social interaction. According to Hara Estroff Marano, “Psychologists find that humans have a fundamental need for inclusion for group life and for close relationships.”

In this same article, the author cites psychologist Joe Cacioppo of University of Chicago as per his findings that socially isolated and the lonely “experience higher levels of cumulative wear and tear. ”

In short, consistently volunteering for a least  two years brings better physical and mental health to the volunteer and helps fill a variety of needs within the community: Everyone wins.