Live Longer – Volunteer in Your Community

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did you know that volunteering actually helps you live a longer, healthier life? 

Many older Americans believe they are likely to spend more time volunteering during the next five years. This speaks to better health among the older population and can contribute to their overall good health.

As baby boomers approach retirement, 40% indicate that they're ‘very’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to spend more time working in community service by 2013, according to a recent survey by AARP.

Maybe the greatest benefit people receive from volunteering is the satisfaction of making a difference in their community and country. Pride, satisfaction and accomplishment are all worthwhile reasons to volunteer. Also, when we offer and share our time and talents, we better learn to solve problems, improve the lives of others, make new friends, and strengthen our communities.

During the last two decades we have also seen more research that shows how volunteering provides health benefits in addition to the social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: volunteers have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than non-volunteers. 

Older volunteers are more likely to receive greater benefits than those younger from volunteering, perhaps because volunteering provides them with physical and social activities and a sense of purpose during a time in life when their social roles are changing. Some of these findings also show that volunteers who devote a more substantial amount of time to volunteer activities, about 100 hours per year, are more likely to have positive health benefits.
A survey by UnitedHealthcare provides compelling evidence that volunteering not only bolsters volunteers’ physical and mental health but also strengthens relationships between employers and employees.

Among their findings:
Over 68% of those who volunteered during the past year said that volunteering made them feel physically healthier.
29% of volunteers who suffer from a chronic condition report that volunteering has helped them to manage their chronic illness.
89% of volunteers agree that volunteering improved their sense of well-being.
73% of volunteers feel that volunteering lowered their stress levels.
92% of volunteers agree that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life.

Over three-quarters of those volunteers who participate in service activities through their workplace indicate that they feel better about their employer due to the employer’s involvement in their volunteer causes.

In this economy, as nonprofit organizations struggle to provide services to greater numbers of people on smaller budgets, volunteers become even more essential to the health of our nation’s communities. Helping others helps not only the community, but also contributes to one’s personal health. This is good news for people who enjoy volunteering.

National volunteer rates

The number of volunteers in the U.S. is growing annually. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service:
Over a million more volunteers helped out in 2007 than 2000
Volunteer dedication is also on the rise, with over a third of volunteers giving more than 100 hours of service per year
In addition to over 60 million serving in organizations nationwide, another 5.2 million people also volunteer informally to help their communities

In conclusion, helping others makes people happier and healthier. The word is out – it's good to be good. 

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