Volunteering helps to reduce senior stress

As people age, few are going to be one of those smiling, gray-haired, fictional people that advertisers love to show. The reality is that many older Americans find themselves facing a variety of issues and problems that can bring substantial amounts of stress to their senior years.

While any one can feel stress at any age, most stress-inducing events have a set deadline after which they end. A student might be anxious about an upcoming test, or a businessman worried about a presentation, but once the events pass, they’re over. For such stress, it’s possible to take action in studying more or holding extra presentation rehearsals and to help address the problem.

But for an older person facing problems such as deteriorating health, caring for an ill spouse, the possible loss of independent living or waning financial resources, stress levels can be high, ongoing and often impossible to eliminate. The result can be serious depression, one of the most common health problems facing older Americans.

While such stress-inducing issues don’t just disappear, there are ways to manage stress and reduce the negative effects it can have on someone’s life.

The most common advice is to live a more active life that usually translates as more physical activity and a more active social life.

Increased exercise may require dedication, but isn’t difficult to achieve. Creating a more extensive social life, however, can be a challenge for many people, and that’s where volunteering can make a difference.

From big cities to small towns, there are always numerous volunteer opportunities available. Some positions may call on past skills, talents and work experiences, while others might allow a senior to learn new skills. Often it simply means being a helpful presence when assistance is needed. But in all cases, volunteering provides an opportunity for seniors to meet new people, help others and feel more positive about themselves, which are all great stress reducers for anybody.

While getting started can seem difficult, when it comes to volunteering it’s usually easy. A call to a local school, hospital, YMCA, Red Cross, animal shelter or other nonprofit group will usually provide plenty of opportunities or suggestions. There are also online services available, such as www.VolunteerMatch.com, which can link volunteers to local nonprofit needs.

Volunteering is a great way to stay active, be more involved and reduce stress, regardless of age. Find out who needs help locally today.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to [email protected] or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

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