Working and volunteering can reduce the risk of disability in older adults

Working and volunteering

Working and volunteering can bring lots of benefits to our life. We can gain new skills and knowledge, have better job and career prospects, enjoy a sense of achievement and fulfilment, connect to other people, and increase physical and mental health.

In a recent study, researchers find that working and volunteering can lead to successful aging, and may play an important role in the prevention of disablement. The finding is published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Researchers from Georgia State University and Florida State University worked together to conduct the study.

The research accessed data in The Health and Retirement Survey from 1998 to 2012. A total of 13,268 people aged 50-64 were involved. These people worked full-time or part-time, and they volunteered less than 100 hours or more than 100 hours every year.

Researchers recorded participants’ working and volunteering experiences, their chronic diseases, and function limitations. The functional limitations were tested in several activities, such as stooping or kneeling, lifting or carrying 10 pounds, walking one block, climbing one flight of stairs, and pulling a large object.

The result showed that chronic diseases were associated with higher levels of subsequent functional limitations. However, both working and volunteering were associated with lower levels of subsequent functional limitations.

Researchers suggest that working and volunteering are productive activities and play a key role in healthy aging. They not only bring direct benefits to physical and mental health, but also reduce the harm of chronic diseases on daily functions.

In the future, policy makers should support social institutions that foster productive activities for older people. This will help them enjoy life more.

Citation: Kail BL, Carr DC. (2016). Successful Aging in the Context of the Disablement Process: Working and Volunteering as Moderators on the Association Between Chronic Conditions and Subsequent Functional Limitations. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, pii: gbw060. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw060.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.