Editors note: “A Better Life” is a new weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
Everyone loves a volunteer, with their compassion, passion, and free labor. It might not surprise you that volunteerism differs by age. But if you thought you would be more likely to volunteer when you retire, you are probably wrong. Almost half of people younger than 60 volunteer, while less than 40 percent over 60 do. But seniors out-do their younger peers in how much they volunteer, with one-third logging more than 80 hours a month in good deeds.
Where we volunteer also differs by age, with younger folks more likely to help out around their current life roles. For example, a parent of a school-age child might join the PTA or coach their kid’s soccer team. Seniors are less likely to volunteer for a political organization, giving their time at educational facilities, religious organizations, senior centers, and agencies like the United Way.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter how old you are; volunteering always seems to give a boost to life satisfaction and health. Study after study confirms this healthy bonus for volunteers. And if you are volunteering at retirement and beyond, the health benefits are even greater for those over 60.
Volunteers benefit as they develop new skills, build experience, develop closer relationships, increase their self-confidence, stay more physically active, have better life satisfaction and less depression, find more meaning, and have better perceived health. And if you feel like you don’t have time to volunteer, this last benefit may surprise you: Volunteers paradoxically report that they feel like they have more time rather than less.
If you have been inspired by the potential health boost from volunteering, maybe you’ll decide to donate your time to boost the health of someone in your community. Building on the success of the Master Gardner Program, USU Extension is launching a Master Health Volunteer Program (MHVP). Tooele has been selected as one of just two locations in the state to pilot the program.
The MHVP will be mimicking the Master Gardner Program, offering 40 hours of training at little cost (just a $35 fee to cover some materials). Then the trained health volunteers commit to give back 40 hours of service in their community. It is a win-win, boosting the health and knowledge of the volunteer as well as the community members they serve.
The Tooele County MHVP community pilot will use an online curriculum that can be completed anytime, anywhere. There will also be two meetings with USU faculty, either in-person or by phone. The goal is simple: make Tooele County the healthiest place in Utah. The more people who are engaged in community health, the easier the challenge can be met. If you are interested and want more information, contact: Maren Wright Voss, ScD, Health and Wellness Assistant Faculty, USU Extension at Maren.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435-277-2400.
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.