This past summer, while many Americans were escaping the high temperatures at home by taking their annual summer vacations, another group of men and women from around the country traveled to Washington DC for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Since the Conference was first held in 1961, the profile of the retirement community has changed dramatically in both size and outlook. While the focus of the conference was on four policy briefs—healthy aging, long-term service, elder justice, and retirement security—the first of the four indicates how older Americans view themselves and are viewed by others.
Americans are living longer than ever before, and by 2030, one in five will be over 65. As noted in the Healthy Aging Policy Brief, these men and women want to focus on the opportunities— and not the limitations—of this phase of their lives. They have a lifetime of knowledge and experience that can be used in new roles to help others. Equally important, the brief states that “volunteering has been shown to improve physical and mental health, reduce the risk of depression, and create greater satisfaction by providing a sense of community.”
It seems that research has caught up with the old adage that you get as much as you give. Academia and the medical community have been hard at work evaluating the benefits of leading a purposeful life. Unlike many studies that suggest what may be possible in the future, the experts provide ample support for activities older Americans can participate in today to lead healthier, longer lives.
This edition of Engage Connect focuses on the observations of some of these experts and of the men and women of UJA-Federation of New York’s Engage Jewish Service Corps at JCC Manhattan, who make volunteering an integral part of their lives.
This article was originally published in the fall 2015 Engage Connect printed newsletter.