Skip to main content

The Health Benefits of Volunteering Among Older Adults: Implications for Volunteer Management

The Health Benefits of Volunteering Among Older Adults: Implications for Volunteer Management

Understanding the health benefits of volunteering for older adults can provide multiple opportunities for increasing the impact of nonprofit organizations, and the quality of life generally in our communities. From a volunteer management perspective, this has implications for recruitment, retention, and reporting.

In this Research to Practice, reviewer Laurie Mook looks at an analysis of 73 peer-reviewed articles on the benefits associated with volunteering among the growing demographic of older adults. The goal of the meta-analysis was to acquire a comprehensive view of how formal volunteering might protect against cognitive decline and dementia. Although many activities provide social, physical, and cognitive opportunities for older adults that have been shown to result in health-related benefits, volunteerism has an added dimension: altruism. Here we explore how strategic volunteer management can add to making a difference.

To read the full article

Wed, 10/15/2014
This article will be distributed among my Volunteer Coordinators and similated into their interactions with our many Senior Centers and etc. We have known that the "mature" volunteers are the volunteers that tend to "stick and stay". We first always ask, do you have any special gifts or talents that you would like to share with our patients? Taking our lead from our volunteer we proceed to match volunteer with an appropriate patient OR assign a clerical task in our many departments at our offices. I will be sending this article to my coordinators to utilize your verbiage and using a few of these points in our Volunteer Brochure. Great tips and I truly appreciate the efforts on all who assimilated the information.

Mon, 10/20/2014
So I would love to look at this concept here: "Many prospective cohort studies, have reported that adults who engage in more social activity (Bennett, Schneider, Tang, Arnold, & Wilson, 2006; Fratiglioni, Wang, Ericsson, Maytan, & Winblad, 2000), more physical activity (Carlson, Helms, et al., 2008; Larson et al., 2006; Podewils etal., 2005; Rovio et al., 2005; Wang, Larson, Bowen, & van Belle, 2006), or more cognitive activity (Akbaraly et al., 2009; Wilson etal., 2002) have lower dementia rates, even after controlling for potentially confounding variables such as age, education, medical conditions, and apolipoprotein E genotype." So my question is, we know this - the studies tell us this as volunteer managers and as humans, we just understand that those that stay active, and engaged and using their skills and minds stay sharper. So what are groups doing to make volunteering easier for older adults? I've worked with some groups consulting who hate having older volunteers because they are "too slow, or don't know the technology or office systems, or too hard to train, or unreliable with transportation" It breaks my heart. I worked so hard to include seniors in our volunteer efforts. And found that really more of them are up on technology and things now and can be really useful in an office setting. So how do we, as volunteer managers, get past that stereotype of them being too slow, not knowing the technology, too hard to train, unreliable, and get our staff past that to get them engaged? I know I was fortunate that I had areas I could engage seniors - at our aquarium, my whole mail team was seniors, and i had seniors doing data entry, research, and photo scanning. If they were comfortable to learn the technology, I'd teach them and they were so useful. And should organizations, or do organizations, feel that by engaging seniors together they are increasing their quality of life? Making friends, networking? My mail team volunteers were friends outside of the organization as well, many would go for coffee after volunteering, catch a movie, etc. it was a source of friends for them. Do groups do anything to encourage that relationship building for seniors? My food for thought!