The benefits of volunteering


By Barbara Raynor, East Denver LIVING WELL Magazine

The Corporation for National and Community Service recently released another report concluding that volunteering was good for your health—particularly if you’re 50 years of age or older. This report was one of a growing number of studies that prove there is a clear connection between volunteering and lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations, and higher levels of wellbeing among Adults 50+.

This is good news for Baby Boomers, as well as their communities, for a variety of reasons:

  • First, as the debate continues about the long-term sustainability of Medicare and our communities’ ability to meet the physical and emotional needs of a rapidly-growing Adult 50+ population, the notion that Boomers can lead longer, more active, and happier lives by volunteering is extremely reassuring to those concerned about managing the cost of old age.
  • Second, research has shown that while Boomers are likely to enjoy longer lives than their ancestors, as Boomers grow older, they are also likely to have to live with more chronic diseases than their ancestors did, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer. Researchers have found that when patients with chronic or serious illnesses volunteer, they receive benefits beyond those, which can be achieved through medical care alone.
  • Third, as local communities struggle with the challenge of meeting increased needs in the face of diminishing resources, Boomers have the desire and the willingness to share the knowledge, skills, and experience they acquired in the “working world” to help build the capacity of both public and nonprofit institutions to serve their communities more efficiently and effectively.

Approximately 75% of Baby Boomers intend to volunteer—in ways that are meaningful to them and to those they serve. While Boomers are growing older, they have no desire to “age.” Just as they have redefined every other stage of their lives, they will redefine this one, too. They do not see 60 as the new 40; rather, they see 60 as the new 60. By working to improve the quality of life in their communities, they will improve the quality of their own lives, as well.

Barbara Raynor is the managing director of Boomers Leading Change in Health, a ground-breaking grassroots effort dedicated to improving the health—and access to healthcare—of people across Metro Denver by mobilizing Adults 50+ as volunteers.