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Volunteering a Secret Ingredient For Healthy Aging

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted with permission from Abilities Magazine, Spring, 2000.

A report published by Dr. Neena Chappell of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria shows that people who spend time helping others are in better health, physically and emotionally, as they age.

"Volunteering and Healthy Aging: What We Know" is an extensive review of literature about the relationship between health in old age and participation in volunteer activities. The paper reviews what we know about why people volunteer, and the benefits of volunteering.

"We still need more research in this area, but the literature clearly brings us the good news that people who give their time to a volunteer activity, especially if it involves helping others, are happier and healthier in their later years," says Dr. Chappell.

Her paper asserts that the "social support" that volunteers receive when they are engaged in volunteer activity is linked to their health and sense of well-being.

Isolated individuals tend to die younger, and social engagement can help mediate the effects of stress in our lives. Volunteers also seem to derive health benefits from volunteering because they feel that they are useful and making a contribution.

The report is available on the website of Volunteer Canada, www.volunteer.ca. For more information, call (613) 231-4371 (toll-free: 1-800-670-0401).

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