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.” https://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2019/volunteering-helps-keep-seniors-healthy-new-study-suggests
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. ”https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200307/the-dangers-loneliness
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.