April was National Volunteer Month and embedded within that was National Volunteer Week, which ended on April 25th. Deserving special praise during the COVID-19 pandemic are volunteers and essential workers who are being hailed as Superheroes, their work more critical than ever.
While volunteers serve essential roles in society and fill in gaps where needs exist, there are also many psychological and physical health benefits attributed to volunteering and acts of altruism — a selfless concern for others.
Volunteering decreases the risk of depression, especially in people over 65. It creates social interactions and builds a support network of individuals devoted to a common cause. Service to others provides a sense of purpose beyond oneself in something larger, which leads to a greater sense of meaning.
Staying physically and mentally active through volunteerism also has health benefits, both physical and mental. Stress levels are lower and blood pressure decreases. If you’re a Fit Bit kind of person who needs to log quantifiable amounts, studies exist that link volunteering between 100 to 200 hours a year associated with a lowering of blood pressure. There are also documented benefits for reducing chronic pain. A longitudinal study of aging also links volunteering with longer lifespans.
The scientific evidence is compelling, and here’s some anecdotal evidence that formed a pattern throughout volunteer profiles for Noble Horizons in Salisbury, CT.
The local volunteers interviewed at Noble Horizons in honor of National Volunteer month spoke of their good fortune and the need to give back to the community. Millerton resident and Noble volunteer Russ Day reported that he’d been waiting for the opportunity to serve others at the end of his 35-year IBM career as an electrical engineer. Now, it’s part of his weekly routine.
Salisbury Visiting Ambulance Chief Jacquie Rice reflects on the example of giving and serving set by her parents. Both she and Canaan Childcare Center Director and past Salisbury Rotary President Fran Chappell attest to the connection of their volunteer work to the greater community. They give evidence to a feeling of embeddedness they feel in the towns and causes they serve. Kathy Mera thrives on linking people and causes together and seeing the intersection of available resources.
That sense of family and social connectedness is important to Mary Ellen Baldwin, a career nurse at Noble who in retirement continues her relationship with residents helping them to cultivate their spiritual life. Educator Keith Moon volunteers to teach classes at Noble on Russian history and literature. He also is on the board of Special Olympics Connecticut. He enjoys challenging others mentally and physically and being challenged by them in return.
Nina Mathus reports the “getting more than you give” phenomenon associated with volunteering and is grateful for her blessings, among which is the chance to make life better for others. Improving the lives of those around her and showing kindness has kept Mary Barton serving the residents of Noble for over 40 years.
Many observations are common to all volunteers. They love serving others, giving back, challenging themselves, and gratefully feeling part of something larger. They also keenly miss their interactions at Noble Horizons and elsewhere due to COVID-19, which points to another benefit of volunteering, those good feelings and substantial health benefits are addictive.
To read all of Noble’s volunteer profiles, please visit https://noblehorizons.org/blog.html