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Aging Well: The hidden value of volunteering

New research from Mather Institute reveals that some volunteer activities may be better than others when it comes to strengthening life satisfaction.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Volunteer work is a wonderful use of your time. Doing something worthwhile for others offers a wealth of benefits to your own well-being, from keeping you mentally and socially active to strengthening your sense of purpose and satisfaction with life.

“I find volunteer work to be very satisfying,” says Paul Korkemaz, a part-time consultant and devoted volunteer who is planning to move with his wife to The Mather, a Life Plan Community in Tysons, when it opens in 2024.

Paul devotes time to three charitable pursuits when he’s not working.

“I like the sense that I’m actually making a difference,” he says. He has been teaching English as a Second Language for over 25 years at a Catholic church in Vienna; he does fundraising for an organization called Education & Opportunities for Lebanon, which serves underprivileged children throughout Lebanon; and he is a member and president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Arlington Diocese Council.

Interestingly, some volunteer activities may be better than others when it comes to life satisfaction. New research from Mather Institute looks at different formal and informal volunteer activities and finds that many older adults could increase their life satisfaction by choosing more formal activities like Paul. Formal activities are generally done for an organization, as opposed to informal activities like helping out a neighbor or friend.

Mather Institute is the research arm of Mather, the parent organization of The Mather. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living and successful aging service innovations.

“In our study on ‘the value of volunteering,’ we found that not all opportunities offer the same psychological benefits,” says study author Nicole Lehpamer, PhD, senior research associate at Mather Institute. The study reveals that volunteer activities most likely to increase your life satisfaction include the following:

  • Fundraising
  • Mentoring youth or tutoring and teaching
  • Collecting, preparing, serving or distributing food
  • General labor (like cleaning up a public park)

“The things I’m engaged in with these organizations are not just talk,” says Paul. “I can see the understanding on someone’s face as they learn English; I can know the difference we’re making in the lives of children in Lebanon who I’ll never meet. That is what’s satisfying.”

Want to find a volunteer opportunity that will maximize your life satisfaction? Start by looking at local community groups, schools or places of worship for formal volunteer opportunities like those listed above.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. The community is located in the center of a vibrant urban location just two blocks from the Metro and within walking distance to restaurants, retail, and parks.

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