Volunteering Reduces Risk of Dementia in Older Adults

Monday, May 15, 2017

Researchers from the University of Calgary conducted a study exploring the cognitive benefits of volunteering for seniors; volunteering, in this case, is a voluntary activity for which the individual is not paid; Dr. Yannick Griep explains that “the activity has to benefit others who are not your core family; for example, helping out a church, a school, a library, a homeless shelter, or some sort of charity organization.” The team hypothesized that volunteering would provide social, physical, and cognitive benefits to seniors. They monitored over 1000 retirees’ general and cognitive health over 5 years, performing assessments regularly. They split participants into three groups according to their level of involvement in volunteering: the first group volunteered at least one hour per week; the second group volunteered intermittently; the third group did not volunteer. They found that people who did not volunteer were 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia than those who volunteered regularly. In addition, volunteering intermittently provided no cognitive benefits; “for this group there are no differences than with the group that never volunteered,” Griep stated. He also explained that these advantages are likely due to the fact that “[volunteering] brings a structure to the day… It offers social contact with people outside of our family. It brings us the social status we get with a job title. It makes us feel like we’re making a meaningful contribution to society.” The team strongly recommends volunteering in retirement as an effective, inexpensive way to reduce dementia risk that benefits the seniors as well as the wider community.

SOURCE: University of Calgary: https://arts.ucalgary.ca/news/volunteering-can-reduce-dementia-risk-seniors-study-finds

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: PLOS: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0173885

DATE RETRIEVED: May 11, 2017

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