Dec. 17

Volunteering is Good for Your Health


Today's blog is reposted from United Church Homes on Nov. 30, 2012.

Residents of Cherry Arbor affordable housing community in North Lewisburg, Ohio, are always looking for ways to serve others.

On Election Day they made chili and cornbread available to anyone who needed to come in, sit and get a bite to eat. Once a week they host a free exercise class that’s open to the North Lewisburg community. And every month they host a mobile food pantry that provides basics to about 60 local families.

“They’re a special group of people,” says Shawn Hoffner, manager of the United Church Homes community. “The things they accomplish would be incredible for anyone, but it’s even more amazing when you realize that the average age of our residents is somewhere in the 80s. I think the volunteering really helps keep them healthy.”

Hoffner might just be right.

Research shows that people who are active in volunteer activities enjoy greater physical, mental and emotional health than those who are more isolated.

A study published in the December 2011 issue of The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine found that people who give back to others lead more fulfilling lives.

“People in general are happier and healthier, and may even live a little longer, when they’re contributing to their community or an organization they are passionate about,” said study author Stephen G. Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. “The research on the benefits of giving is extremely powerful, to the point that suggests health care professionals should consider recommending such activities to patients.”

Post’s research included a UnitedHealthcare survey of 4,582 U.S. adults who were asked about their volunteer activities and overall health. Nearly 70 percent reported feeling physically healthier after volunteering and 28 percent said that volunteering helped them manage the effects of a chronic illness.

Other research suggests that individuals 60 and older have the most to gain. A report titled “The
Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research
,” by The Corporation for National and Community Service, noted that a strong relationship between volunteering (among older adults) and health. “Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer,” the report said.

Hoffner believes volunteering has made a positive impact in the lives of Cherry Arbor residents.

“We have one gentleman who is 93 years old and whenever someone needs something he’s among the first to volunteer,” he says. “Instead of staying in his apartment and isolating himself, he’s always out looking for ways to help.”

According to Hoffer, this type of caring is also indicative of the greater culture at United Church Homes.

“This is what we’re all about,” he says. “We’re all here to help each other. This is a community for low-income seniors, and as such, most of these people don’t have much. But there’s not a month that goes by that they’re not putting their resources together and hosting a meal for friends and family. It’s a great thing to see.”


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