-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
It is known that keeping your mind and body active in your elder years can help slow the onset of frailty and aging. In recent studies it has been found that elderly citizens who volunteer produce the best results for avoiding frailty. In one particular study done by UCLA researchers, 1,072 healthy adults from the ages of 70 to 79 were observed. They were studying to determine whether productive activities- specifically volunteering, paid work and child care- help to prevent early frailty.
The participants were broken down into 3 groups consisting of 28 percent that volunteered 25 percent that performed childcare duties and 19 percent that worked for pay. After 3 years of observing the participants, it was found that all of the productive activities were associated with lower rates of frailty. However, after examining the levels of physical and cognitive function, only participants that volunteered had lower rates of frailty.
This study shows that volunteering may help to prevent the early onset of frailty in elderly adults. Though it is speculated that what really helps to prevent frailty is not volunteering, but rather the type of people who volunteer regularly. With more studies researchers will be able to determine the source of lowered rates of frailty in older adults who volunteer.