Holidays are created around traditions, and one of the holiday traditions is to give either by money or by time. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25% of adults volunteer. The number goes up as we age and down after age 80. Those who volunteer early are more likely to volunteer later on.
Numerous studies(pdf) document that active and engaged older people remain in better health. For example, a small-scale experiment shows that low-income minority seniors volunteering in public elementary schools outscored their nonparticipating counterparts in both physical strength and cognitive ability (Fried et al. 2004). Studies show that older adults who volunteer live longer and have better physical and mental health than counterparts who do not volunteer.
- Volunteering connects you to others: Loneliness is a killer, and we human beings love social life. Volunteering for your cause will connect you to like-minded people. It can develop a good friendships with people who are in helping business. When you need help, they are good resources. Volunteering allows you to practice and build social skills since you regularly meet people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts. Volunteering as a couple or as a family also enhances the meaning of life. Volunteering improves your community, and living in a healthy and resourceful community makes you happy.
- Volunteering is good for your mind and body.
Connecting and volunteering and seeing the meaning of your work will help your stress, anxiety, and depression. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we offer, the happier we feel. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity, and it brings a positive view of your life and future goals. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks and are less likely to develop high blood pressure. They live longer and have less chance of developing cognitive problems. Volunteering can also lessen chronic pain symptoms and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Volunteering can advance your career.
Volunteering allows you to practice essential workplace skills, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management, and organization. Volunteering will enable you to try a new career without making a long-term commitment. Volunteer work exposes you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career.
- Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life.
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. You are doing volunteer work, which you find meaningful and exciting, can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day work routine, school, or family commitments.
Negative aspects of Volunteering:
Volunteering comes with a price. Volunteering requires dedicated time commitments. Some organizations are demanding, and after being there for a while, your enthusiasm may need to be higher to find joy in your duty. Some volunteer organizations may need to train you properly to deal with the physical and emotional strain that you may face and hurt you inadvertently. Volunteering places have their hierarchies, and it may cause personality conflict. By definition, volunteer work is without any financial reward and puts a drain on your pocket for travel and resource costs. You may get disillusioned by the hypocrisy and inefficiencies of the organization. Some volunteer groups have their own political or economic agenda and may be hurting the local ecosystem.
Many biased studies may be choosing people who are healthy, happy and resourceful, and more likely to volunteer.
Whatever your cause, Volunteering will make you and our community strong, so continue to do what you do best.
Tarak Vasavada, MD
Live Well Foundation of Madison County Medical Society