Research shows that volunteering is good for the health and well-being of volunteers. But for older Americans with low incomes and lower levels of education, a group vulnerable to poor health outcomes, many obstacles can make it difficult to volunteer. As a result, these individuals may miss out on the health and well-being benefits of volunteering, and communities may miss out on the volunteer service these individuals provide.
A new independent report sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service offers some good news: Senior Corps provides the access, structure, and financial support for low-income, at-risk Americans 55 and older to live happier, healthier lives while making a difference in their communities.
New findings show after two years of service, first-time Senior Corps volunteers in the Foster Grandparent Program and Senior Companion Program reported improvements in health, decreased depression and less social isolation.
Senior Corps volunteers reported much higher self-rated health scores, compared to older adults in similar circumstances who do not volunteer. Self-rated health has been determined to be a valid marker of actual health.
Eighty-four percent of older adults reported improved or stable health, after two years of service in Senior Corps.
Thirty-two percent of Senior Corps volunteers who reported good health at the beginning of the study reported improved health at the two-year follow-up.
Senior Corps volunteers reported feeling significantly less depressed and less isolated compared to non-volunteers. Social isolation is associated with depression and health issues including mortality. Seventy-eight percent of those who reported five or more symptoms at the beginning of the study said they felt less depressed two years later.
Eighty-eight percent of Senior Corps volunteers who first described a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after two years.
Senior Corps provides older adults with important opportunities to serve their community.
Eighty percent of Senior Corps volunteers serving through the Foster Grandparent or Senior Companion programs report household income less than $20,000 per year.
Thirty-four percent report a long-lasting condition that limits basic physical activity.
Foster Grandparents of the Wyoming Rockies’ home base is in Laramie, but serves Uinta County. For more information about how you can make a difference in your life and in the life of children in your community, please call (307) 223-1051.