Volunteers say they’re better off

A new report provides evidence that consistent volunteering can improve the health and well-being of people age 55 and older.

The report, released in February by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency responsible for the nation’s volunteer and service efforts, examined the positive impacts on Senior Corps volunteers in the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent programs who help home-bound seniors maintain independence and tutor and mentor at-risk youth, respectively. According to the research:

• After two years of service in Senior Corps, 84 percent of older adults reported improved or stable health.

• 32 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who reported good health at the beginning of the study reported improved health at the two-year followup.

• Of those who reported five or more symptoms of depression at the beginning of the study, 78 percent felt less depressed two years later. 

• 88 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who first described a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after two years.

• Among those who initially reported a lack of companionship, 71 percent reported an improvement in their companionship status.

The volunteers found their service satisfying and meaningful through opportunities for personal growth, a sense of accomplishment, and friendship all factors associated with improved health and emotional well-being, officials said.

Information on Senior Corps programs is available at seniorcorps.gov/healthyvolunteers.