Volunteer for a life of benefits

Volunteering can help improve your health as well as your community.

The number of volunteers over the age of 65 is expected to reach more than 13 million by 2020. Those volunteers may enjoy a variety of health benefits as they contribute to their communities. According to “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” by the Corporation for National and Community Service, this is particularly true for older adults who volunteered for 40 or more hours in a year. Volunteering in your community offers many benefits including greater life satisfaction, increased physical well-being and larger social networks.

When adults over the age of 60 volunteer, they may experience greater mental health as well as enjoy the company they experience while volunteering. As adults age, their roles change and this can affect their social interactions. When they volunteer, they may find a new cadre of friends that share their interests or help them develop new interests. They may now have the time and energy to help at community events or seek the opportunity to work with young people. Older adults may enjoy serving as a mentor to youth in their neighborhood or further developing their passion as a Master Gardener.

Social isolation can be a problem for many, and when you decide to volunteer your social network increases, and so may your mood. Surrounding yourself with individuals who need you, look forward to seeing you or share your interests can not be rewarding and boost your overall mood. All of us enjoy being needed and when the smile appears on the faces of those you encounter, you may find yourself smiling right with them.

Do only older volunteers enjoy these benefits? Not necessarily, but younger volunteers may enjoy many of the same benefits, however many of those younger volunteers may be there because they feel an obligation or be fulfilling a requirement. It really depends on the individual, their motivation and their type of involvement. Everyone can make a difference and enjoy benefits; the magnitude of those benefits can vary greatly. So get involved, enjoy the experience and make the most of the time you have with those around you to enhance who you are and better your community.

Michigan State University Extension invites you to check out the volunteer opportunities that exist with 4-H Youth Development and consider how you will make a difference. Volunteer for your health today!

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