Scientists who study aging and its effects on people’s health have long known that regular activity is very beneficial for seniors. A new study shows that not only is volunteering a great way to keep yourself occupied, happy, and alert, but it may also allow people a very practical way to prevent or delay cognitive decline.
In a study published earlier this year, researchers showed that a small group of women who volunteered to work 15 hours a week in local elementary schools significantly improved their cognitive functions over time.
The eight women who participated in the study were of an average age of 67. They took a 30 hour training course before they began volunteering 15 hours a week in local schools where they assisted children in learning how to read, assisted teachers and librarians, and perform other tasks.
Before beginning their volunteering work the subject participants took cognitive function tests and all of them came from backgrounds with high risk factors for early cognitive decline, such as low education and low income. After spending six months volunteering, the senior ladies were again tested and showed remarkable improvement. The researchers say their scores increased by an average of 40% and they also had brain scan results that showed significant increases in positive brain activity.
This study further enhances the evidence that volunteering can aid seniors and retirees dramatically. Previous studies have shown that seniors who volunteer are less likely to become frail, reduce their risk of developing cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and even have a lower mortality rate when compared to those who do not volunteer.