Volunteers’ Week this year has been stretched to run from the 1st -12th June.It is held annually in celebration of the work that many thousands of people in the UK put in freely to help in their free time with tasks,projects for the benefit of others in their community or country.
Working in the local community is something people of all ages can get involved in,and many older people do. According to the Royal Voluntary Service 1 in 5 older people volunteer for 2 to more charities. The Institute for Volunteering Research reports that some of the main areas of formal work are to be found in:
- organising events
- raising/handling money
- providing transport
- befriending or mentoring people
- visiting people
- giving counselling or information
- secretarial and clerical/admin support
The watch word though seems to be don’t volunteer more time than you feel comfortable with.
Good for your health
There are benefits to be had in being a volunteer. Volunteering is a two way thing.Both the helped and the helper benefit.The helper will receive some satisfaction of a worthwhile service to others freely given, and maybe pride in a job well done. Also,for the helper opportunities occur which provide connection with others and help bring communities closer, and improving lives and often transforming their own.At the Carnegie Mellon University researchers have found that especially among older people regular voluntary work resulted in many benefiting form lower blood pressure which in turn had further benefits from reducing the risk of other health issues. A study was published in “Psychology and Aging”.There has been much other research over the last two decades to support this.The Corporation for National and Community Service in the US has reported,”a strong relationship between volunteering 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.”Older volunteers are more likely to receive greater benefit.This is felt likely the result of having a sense of purpose, and experiencing a stress reducing feel good factor, at a time when their social roles are changing.
Should you be in it just for yourself?
The general view is that your actions need to be for the best intentions and not with the notion that it may improve or maintain health in some way.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that the essence of life is “To serve others and do good.” Recent research suggests serving others might also be the essence of good mental and physical health.
Just four hours a week could do the trick.
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