Laura Carstensen, a Stanford psychology professor and Director of the Stanford Center for Longevity, said, “Contrary to widespread beliefs that older populations consume resources that would otherwise go to youth, there is growing reason to think that older people may be just the resource children need.”
Carstensen’s prior research has found that as people age, their brains actually improve in many ways, including in complex problem-solving and emotional skills. “It is a huge loss for society not to offer such counsel and experience to others, especially young people,” she said.
The aging population has “distinctive qualities to meet the needs of youth,” she and her co-authors wrote. “Older adults are exceptionally suited to meet these needs in part because they welcome meaningful, productive activity and engagement. They seek – and need – purpose in their lives.”
As for older adults, Carsten’s report pointed out, they benefit as well, experiencing emotional satisfaction in relationships with young people. One way to achieve such contact is through volunteer service, which is associated with better physical health and cognitive performance for aging people. From a societal view, these interactions are positive, too.
“Focusing volunteer efforts on young people improve their (young people’s) chances of success in life,” Carstensen said. “These mutual benefits are perhaps the most compelling reason for programs that connect young and old.”
Advantages of Inter-generational Programs for Older Adults
45% of Americans who work into their retirement years, express their desire to work with younger people. Many older adults also report their desire to continue learning, especially when it comes to changes and new innovations in technology. As younger adults are typically very tuned in to these technological advances, they make for great trainers or teachers of technology for their older counterparts. Engaging in programs with younger people also keep the older adults more physically active and able as well as mentally sharp. Studies have even shown that those with a dementia or cognitive impairment have also shown positive effects during their time with younger people. Sharing the wisdom of years of education and experience with younger people, allows the older adults in programs like these to feel a great sense of giving back and contributing to younger people.
Advantages of Inter-generational Programs for Youth
In school systems where older adult volunteers were helping students regularly, reading test scores were higher than those at other schools. Working with older adults helps youth improve their communication skills, develop new and lasting friendships, and gives them an appreciation and positive attitude toward aging. Many young people report feeling a sense of giving back and purpose in these types of settings. Having these folks in the lives of younger people has proven to lower the likelihood that these children would use illegal drugs or alcohol, and they are also far less likely to skip school. Oftentimes, these programs can benefit the younger people in the way of providing them a positive influence, with whom they can interact with on a regular basis.
Inter-generational Programs Benefit the Community
The typically diverse nature of the inter-generational programs break down barriers and stereotypes among young and old. Everyone – young and old, typically wants to the opportunity to contribute to the greater good, and these groups help foster those opportunities. Some of the greatest plagues of the elderly is the feelings of being helpless and bored. Programs such as these offer the opportunity to continue to contribute their greater community in a positive and impactful way. Teaching children and youth at younger ages the importance of working together, and having a positive impact also benefits them and their community by setting the stage for a lifetime of service.
Health & Wellness Benefits of Volunteering
Aside from inter-generational programming, volunteering can be another a great way to give back to your community, while realizing benefits for yourself as you age.
Here are some ways you could consider volunteering:
- By interacting with younger people, in inter-generational programming settings, you are able to build connections, friendships and share life lessons by sharing your own experiences.
- Giving your time to others can give you a great sense of purpose. Fulfilling the human desire to feel confident, useful and capable. It’s also a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Contributions to your cognitive health are made by volunteering because you are challenging and using your mind to accomplish tasks, projects and basically increasing your brain activity. The National Institute on Aging reports that taking part in activities that are meaningful and productive may lower the risk of dementia and other health problems in seniors.
- Getting out of the house is beneficial, no matter what your age, and positive effects on psychological health have been realized by volunteering. Depression has been found to be less in seniors that volunteered when compared to those that do not volunteer. The key positive impact on a senior is the sense of purpose and accomplishment that volunteering can provide.
- Maintaining a healthy level of fitness helps fend off multiple diseases as we age. Volunteering often requires some degree of physical involvement, whether it is with folks your own age or with younger people, all are great opportunities to get out, get moving and give back to your community.
Remember to do something that you feel good about, are passionate about and gives you a sense of purpose. Volunteering is most beneficial for all parties when you are doing something you enjoy.
Not sure where to volunteer?
Here are some volunteering ideas…
- Enjoy playing music?
- Reach out to a school, church, or senior community
- Enjoy reading to others?
- Reach out to a school or senior community
- Enjoy gardening?
- Seek out a community gardening club or a senior organization that may need a helping hand to get things planted
- Community interests?
- Contact the library, local parks department and ask for volunteer opportunities in your home town
Maplewood Senior Living communities utilize the assistance of over 100 volunteers per year across our properties. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and experiences and range in age from 15-85. Despite the wide variety of life experiences and maturity, each of our volunteers brings their unique self to open our resident’s eyes to new and different viewpoints and learning opportunities. We’re so glad to offer the opportunity to volunteer to our greater communities, as we realize how beneficial this is for both sides.
Many times, we have had local school groups come in to sing, provide musical performances, read and play games with our residents. On the flipside, Maplewood Senior Living residents have been able to volunteer in local schools to help with reading events, book sales and other events.
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering at one of our Maplewood Senior Living communities, click here to contact us. We’d love to have you!