Late-life volunteering may prevent Alzheimer’s

Late-life volunteering may prevent Alzheimer's

Volunteering: An Act of Service that Nurtures Brain Health

By Cara Murez, HealthDay Reporter

Many retirees decide to volunteer later in life, not only to help others but also to stay mentally sharp. According to new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, volunteering can provide significant protection against cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.

The study found that older adults who engaged in volunteer work had better memory and executive function compared to those who did not partake in acts of service. These findings highlight the potential benefits of volunteering not only for society but also for individual brain health.

Donna McCullough, the Alzheimer’s Association Chief Mission and Field Operations Officer, emphasized the importance of volunteers in communities and organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association. She expressed hope that these new findings would inspire individuals of all ages and backgrounds to engage in local volunteering, suggesting that it could benefit both their communities and their cognitive and brain health.

While engaging in volunteer work, individuals have the opportunity to support various causes such as education, religion, healthcare, and more. In addition to these benefits, volunteering provides increased physical activity, social interaction, and mental stimulation.

The research examined the volunteering habits of over 2,400 ethnically and racially diverse older adults from two studies: the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences Study (KHANDLE) and the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR). The participants had an average age of 74, and approximately 43% reported volunteering in the past year.

Yi Lor, an epidemiology doctoral student at the University of California, Davis, and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, co-authored the study with professor Rachel Whitmer. They discovered an association between volunteering and better baseline scores on tests measuring executive function and verbal episodic memory. Furthermore, the researchers observed a trend towards less cognitive decline over a follow-up time of 1.2 years, with seniors who volunteered several times a week exhibiting the highest levels of executive function.

Lor suggests that volunteering may play a crucial role in maintaining cognitive function in late life and could potentially serve as a simple intervention to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The next steps in this research involve examining whether volunteering can actually prevent cognitive impairment and understanding how physical and mental health factors may impact this relationship.

Although these findings provide valuable insights, it is important to note that they are preliminary and still need to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. While the study uncovers an association between volunteering and improved brain health, it does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

To further explore healthy aging and related topics, individuals can refer to the U.S. National Institutes of Health for additional information.

Alzheimer’s Disease

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One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is __________________. See Answer

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