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Why Giving is Key to Healthy Aging

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Tis’ the season to give—and to remember that giving can be more than something you wrap and put under a tree. Giving your time, resources, and enthusiasm is not only a great way for older adults to celebrate the holiday season, it is a smart component of healthy aging that can benefit you in many ways. And at Peregrine Senior Living, you’ll find lots of ways to give your talents, wisdom and experience every day of the year.   

Why giving is so important for healthy aging

  • Makes you feel good. You know the excitement that comes over you when you’re about to give someone a present? Or that wonderful feeling when you’re leaving a shift as a volunteer? These sensations occur because the act of giving lights up the parts of your brain associated with pleasure and connection with others. The “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin rush through your system and benefit your physical health in many ways.
  • Lowers blood pressure. Good news is that those good feelings are also good for your heart, which is very good when it comes to healthy aging. In a study from Carnegie Mellon University, adults over 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. 
  • Increases self-esteem. Living with low self-esteem can negatively affect mental health and lead to problems with anxiety. Feeling good about yourself builds self-esteem, and which in turn promotes healthy aging. You know it when you feel it! And science backs it up. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues (cited online in Greater Good Magazine) found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves.
  • Lowers risk of depression. Healthy aging includes finding ways to stave off loneliness and depression. Being of service to others is an easy way to do it. It’s what scientists call a ‘virtuous cycle’. When we focus on helping others, we make everyone feel better, including ourselves. This leads to better relationships. Which leads to feeling even better. Which leads to more improved relationships, and so on.

In addition, helping someone gives you a sense of more personal control over your own life, which can help decrease the likelihood of experiencing feelings of depression. This can be especially significant for senior adults. You’ve found a purpose; you matter. 

  • Lowers stress levels. Even in a peaceful retirement, stress can find its way into your life. Just the act of giving has been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria and connection to others. Lower stress = happier you = healthy aging!
  • Increases happiness and satisfaction. In a pair of studies, The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS looked at the health benefits of volunteering for older adults. Their research showed volunteers enjoying health benefits after just one year of service, including decreases in anxiety and depression, loneliness and social isolation. They also report enhanced physical capacity and higher life satisfaction.
  • Evokes gratitude. Whether you are giving or getting, you will experience gratitude, and that’s good news for you in several ways. You feel a benefit physically and mentally, and you build stronger social connections. Score big points for healthy aging!
  • Enhances social connections. Volunteering can bring you together with positive, like-minded people who appreciate your participation. It’s a great way to make new friends and boost your sense of purpose. Not to mention avoid the harmful effects of social isolation. All key to healthy aging.
  • Promotes a longer life. In an American Psychological Association study, evidence suggested that people who volunteer may live longer than those who don’t, as long as their reasons for volunteering are to help others rather than themselves. So if you keep your heart in the right place, your heart—and all the rest of you—could thank you with a longer life!

At Peregrine Senior Living, you can be inspired daily to share your time, talent and wisdom. You could teach a class. Form a new group and introduce your hobby to fellow residents. Volunteer at community events. Mentor budding entrepreneurs. Organize a food or clothing drive for a local charity. You’ll find new joy, and new purpose, as you expand your giving—and a wonderful new aspect of healthy living and healthy aging! 

At Peregrine Senior Living, we believe in personal growth and a higher sense of purpose for all our residents. We welcome you and your loved ones to visit us in person or online during the holidays and see what we mean. We call it The Peregrine Way™Contact us today. And download our free guide, Supporting Your Aging Loved One: Caregiver Tips & Tools.

Written by
Stephen Sarsfield Bowman

More Articles By
Stephen Sarsfield Bowman

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