Volunteering reduces risk of cognitive decline, researchers say

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Volunteering reduces risk of cognitive decline, researchers say
Volunteering reduces risk of cognitive decline, researchers say

Volunteering regularly over time appears to decrease older adults' risk of developing cognitive problems, even if they have other risk factors for cognitive impairment, such as smoking or being inactive, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The authors, from Arizona State University, studied more than 13,000 people aged 60 or more years between 1998 and 2012 and found that older adults who volunteered regularly reduced their chances of developing cognitive problems by 27%. Even those with limited volunteering experience saw benefits, however. Additional benefits of volunteering, the researchers wrote, include better emotional and physical health and longer life.

“The benefits of volunteering extend beyond emotional and physical health. Volunteering helps people preserve their memory and their ability to think and make decisions as they age,” said study co-author Frank J. Infurna, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. “Furthermore, our study shows that even for older adults who have never volunteered, newly engaging in volunteering over time also shows positive benefits.”

More studies are needed to examine why volunteering reduces a person's risk for memory problems would be particularly useful, the researchers said. They also suggested that geriatrics healthcare professionals might consider writing “prescriptions to volunteer” for older adults under their care.

In Focus

Aug. 8 

Help with hydration

Multiple locations 

Senior living communities across the country have been helping older adults stay hydrated this summer by creating hydration kits and consistently offering water and other options for liquids.

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