January 19, 2009

To live longer — volunteer

Volunteering, especially by older people, may be linked to living longer, a U.S. newsletter suggests.

The Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource reports older people who volunteer have lower rates of heart disease and live longer than their peers who are not volunteering. The studies show realizing the health benefits of volunteering requires a commitment of 40 to 100 hours a year -- or a couple of hours a week.

If you who would like get started as a volunteer, the newsletter suggests:

-- Determining your interests or what makes you happy or concerns you deeply. Also, consider what skills you've developed over the years that can be shared or which you'd like to learn.

-- Looking for organizations and opportunities through online research, community bulletin boards or the local library. Consider reaching beyond your local community to participate in a volunteer vacation in other states or abroad.

-- Deciding how much time you can offer. Opportunities range from getting involved in short-term events such as a fund raising walk to a longer-term, ongoing activity such as tutoring.

-- Phoning or visiting the organization to determine if the fit is a good one. If not, keep looking. Many organizations would welcome the skills and wisdom you can share.