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Volunteering Can Improve Your Health

The sense of satisfaction that comes from giving back may be the biggest benefit of volunteering.

Whether you decide to give more time to a cause near and dear to your heart, or find a new opportunity to connect with your community, volunteering has upsides that go beyond the sense of satisfaction that comes from helping others. Research has shown that seniors who volunteer have plenty of health benefits to gain, including a lower risk of depression, greater mobility and functionality, and increased longevity.

So how much time do you need to donate to gain the benefits? The research is mixed, but studies have found at least 40 to 100 hours per year (about one to two hours per week) is ideal.

The benefits of volunteering seem to extend to any type of activity you choose. Because consistency is key, the organization you volunteer with should have personal meaning to you and be conveniently located.

If you don't already have an organization or cause close to home—and your heart—you might consider reaching out to Senior Corps. Like Peace Corps, Senior Corps was envisioned by President John F. Kennedy as an opportunity for Americans to give back to the world around them.

The organization connects people 55 and older with service opportunities. Volunteers receive guidance so they can find a cause that fits their talents, interests, and availability best. Unlike Peace Corps, people in Senior Corps can volunteer in the community where they already live. Commitments can be as little as a few hours a week. (Full-time opportunities are sometimes available as well.

Local schools, environmental groups, and faith-based organizations are often looking for volunteers too, so they are another good place to start your search.
If you choose to volunteer in retirement, you'll be joining the millions of seniors already giving back. The number of people age of 65 and older donating their time is on the rise—up from about 9 million in 2007 to more than 13 million expected by 2020.