Seniors are some of the most active volunteers in the United States. In fact, according to the Administration on Aging, the percentage of adults 65 and older who volunteered rose from 14.3 percent in the 1970s to 23.9 percent in 2009. But in addition to giving back to the community, seniors may also be doing some good for themselves when they donate their time. A new study from Carnegie Mellon University found that older adults who volunteered at least 200 hours a year experienced a 40 percent dip in their risk of high blood pressure.
To measure the impact of volunteering, the research team looked at more than 1,100 adults between the ages of 51 and 91. The team interviewed them at the beginning of the study in 2006 and then again four years later. Researchers asked the participants about how often they volunteered, their social activity and their blood pressure. By the end of the study, the team determined that the type of volunteering did not matter, but the 200-hour mark held the key to lower blood pressure.
"Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise," lead author Dr. Rodlescia S. Sneed said. "There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes."
The findings are not the first to suggest social engagement can have a positive impact on healthy senior living. Previous studies, including one from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that increased social activity is tied to a longer life. Additionally, volunteering can have a positive effect for seniors and their caregivers alike. Check out Sunrise memory care expert Rita Altman's "The Benefits of Volunteering" blog post to learn more!