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Study finds link between volunteering and better health

Activity has always been at the core of our community here at Waterstone. Our residents value their active, independent lifestyles and take pride in productivity. When they decided on a senior living community, they chose a place that made it easy for them to continue pursuing their hobbies and passions, and to contribute in the ways they find most rewarding.

But the importance of an active lifestyle goes far beyond the mentality of our residents. In fact, research has long shown that active bodies and minds are healthy bodies and minds. Now, new research from Georgia State University and Florida State University indicates that part-time and volunteer work can help keep you healthy and mobile.

The study, published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, looked at data collected from more than 13,000 Americans between 1998 and 2012. The participants were all between the ages of 50 and 61, and were re-interviewed every two years. They were asked a number of questions, including whether they were working (full-time or part-time), if they were doing any volunteer work, to what extent they had a number of physical limitations (walking a block, climbing a flight of stairs, etc.) and whether they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, stroke or arthritis. The researchers also collected measurements of functional limitations such as walking one block, climbing a flight of stairs, and stooping and kneeling.

The results are striking. Those respondents working or volunteering for less than 100 hours a year had fewer current physical limitations and chronic conditions. Furthermore, those hours were associated with a weakening of the link between chronic conditions and physical limitations. Put another way, those who worked or volunteered were less likely to suffer from limitations on their mobility, even if they had high blood pressure or diabetes.

And this is important, because researchers say that slowing down early-stage disability can be a key element in keeping older Americans healthier, helping them live longer and improving their quality of life as they age.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in the Wellesley area. If you’re looking for a chance to do good work as a volunteer, we can help connect you with a number of fine organizations. Here are just a few examples:

  • The city of Wellesley has a program called “Wellesley Volunteers” that connects residents interested in volunteering in the community with departments and organizations in need of such dedicated individuals. You can find out more by visiting their website.
  • The Wellesley Free Library is a great organization, and it’s the perfect volunteering opportunity if you love books and want to share that passion with others. Find out more about volunteer opportunities here.
  • The Wellesley Food Pantry, an invaluable resource for many local families, is always looking for help, and August is an especially good time to volunteer. Learn more by visiting their website.
  • Stray Pets in Need (or SPIN) is a local animal shelter that helps pets find their forever homes. It’s entirely staffed by volunteers, which means it’s a perfect opportunity for animal lovers. Learn more here.
  • Wellesley Friendly Aid’s motto is “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” and the organization does great work helping local families who have been devastated by an accident or catastrophic injury. They welcome volunteers, and you can learn more here.

These are just a few of the many great volunteer opportunities available in Wellesley, but we hope you’ll find them to be a good starting point. Remember: work that you’re passionate about is always worth doing!