Looking for a wonderful start to the new year? Help others and yourself by being a Senior Village volunteer! Not only does serving make a real difference for communities, it also makes those who volunteer feel good. Volunteering can even improve your health and help you live longer.

Research clearly shows two major factors affect happiness – (1) good relationships and (2) meaningful work – either paid or unpaid. Volunteering offers both. Volunteering connects us, builds friendships, and helps the volunteer (as well as the recipient) feel less lonely and isolated. In addition, being of service provides purpose and self-worth. It simply feels good to be needed, competent, and keeping our skills and abilities from going to waste.

The social, emotional, and physical benefits of volunteering are well documented. Because helping others distracts us from life’s daily stressors, the implications can be both immediate and enduring. Proven benefits for volunteering include better brain function and lower risk for depression and anxiety, plus an improved immune system. Evidence keeps growing that people who regularly give of themselves to others get rewarded with lower blood pressure and increased longevity. People who volunteer over 100 hours a year are reportedly some of the healthiest Americans.

Researchers also have found that those who consistently volunteer lower their risk for dementia. People who routinely did volunteer work for at least an hour a week were 2.44 times less likely to develop dementia than the seniors who didn’t volunteer. When we volunteer, we’re engaged and less sedentary and that positively affects the aging brain.

Wondering how you can help? Among other things, you could install lockboxes, bring audiobooks, return phone calls, create and deliver holiday baskets, get shots in arms, stuff newsletters, provide a much-needed ride to the doctor, or help members learn about post-SaddleBrooke options. Whether you climb a ladder to hang a mirror, brighten someone’s day with a visit, or help with confusing financial paperwork, volunteering will benefit you at the same time it does the neighbor you support.

Amazingly, when investing time and energy to be of help, you help yourself in the process. Some of us volunteer to get out of the house, some out of kindness, some because we realize we will be needing assistance ourselves down the road, and some just because it’s fun. A 2012 study found that one key for experiencing the health benefits of volunteering is a sincere desire to help.

Fill a need and everybody wins, so volunteer. You could end up living longer and happier. To become a Senior Village volunteer or member, call (520) 314-1042.

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