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Senior volunteering indicates well-being

Retirees who volunteer or participate in community organizations enjoy significantly higher levels of psychological and physical well-being than other retirees and older workers. The reason: Volunteering probably connects retirees socially and provides routines, rituals and additional roles, according to a Cornell University study.

Although older working people volunteer at the same rate as retired persons, their level of well-being is not significantly enhanced by community service.

"That's probably because the employed already benefit from the social connectedness on their jobs," according to Cornell sociologist Phyllis Moen, the Ferris Family Professor in Life Course Studies in human development and sociology, co-director of the Cornell Gerontology Research Institute and director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center at Cornell.

Measures of well-being are defined by Moen as including a sense of mastery over one's life, self-esteem, life satisfaction and energy level.

Moen will present her findings Aug. 8 at the American Sociological Association meeting in Chicago. The meeting begins today (Aug. 6).

"The fact that the still-employed do not reap the same kind of benefits from volunteering as do the retired suggests that community participation compensates for the social and psychological benefits of employment among retirees," says Moen. "Since paid work seems to give workers a sense of purpose and well-being in the prime adult years, our study suggests that volunteering in community organizations does the same for retirees."

Moen recommends that the middle-aged become active in their communities early on, since volunteering rates don't rise with retirement. "Community participation gives retirees additional roles in their lives, a sense of purpose and a strong sense of being connected. And being socially connected is a powerful predictor for high levels of well-being in older life," she says.

To examine the links between communi
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Contact: Susan S. Lang
SSL4@cornell.edu
607-255-3613
Cornell University News Service
9-Aug-1999


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