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Volunteering May Help Prevent Cognitive Impairment in Seniors

Findings among older adults who maintain consistent volunteer engagement

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Older adults who volunteer have lower risk of developing cognitive impairment, according to a study published online Oct. 3 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Frank J. Infurna, Ph.D., from the Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleagues assessed data from 13,262 participants (≥60 years in 1998) from the Health and Retirement Study (1998 to 2012).

The researchers found that volunteering at the initial assessment and volunteering regularly over the study period was independently tied to decreased risk of cognitive impairment. These findings were consistent independent of known risk factors for cognitive impairment. Being older, female, and nonwhite; having fewer years of education; and reporting more depressive symptoms were associated with greater risk of onset of cognitive impairment.

“Given the increasing number of baby boomers entering old age, the findings support the public health benefits of volunteering and the potential role of geriatricians, who can promote volunteering by incorporating ‘prescriptions to volunteer’ into their patient care,” the authors write.

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