Volunteering Has a Health Benefit

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

July 21, 2006

During retirement many senior citizens spend their time volunteering, which is something that benefits the community. But a new study finds it has health benefits as well, that may even prolong their life.

Since Georgia Davidson retired she's been volunteering every Friday at the gift shop in the University of Virginia Medical Center.

"It's a rewarding experience I think," said Davidson.

While it may be rewarding for Georgia, it's also keeping her in tip top shape, mentally and physically.

Studies show that seniors who volunteer have fewer medical problems than the senior population in general. It helps them stay physically active, which lowers their risk of heart disease and diabetes.

"The rates of diabetes in this country are just skyrocketing," said Kathleen Fletcher, a UVA Gerontological Nurse Practitioner.

Volunteering also helps keep their brain active. Experts said they can protect their memory as they age. "If you don't use it, you lose it," said Fletcher.

Being able to interact with other people makes them feel like they have meaning and purpose in life.

"If we can say a few kind words to the people in the store and cheer them up and find something they're looking for, it makes us feel good," said Davidson.

"Volunteering helps you to feel like you don't just take, that you can give back and that's a very positive aspect," said Fletcher.

In turn, volunteers gain self-esteem to live a long and happy life. "I hope to put in at least 20 years here at the hospital, I've got two more to go," said Davidson.

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