With the warmer weather tugging us outside, spring begs us to enjoy the sun with an energy that can only be found after a long season of indoor captivity. The outdoor exercise and physical activity that accompany warmer weather can boost your health and mood as you start moving, shed “winter weight,” and absorb some Vitamin D. But there is another activity that can improve your health during this season of free time and new-found energy: volunteering. April is National Volunteer Month, and many organizations are welcoming volunteers who have decided to donate hours and resources for the first time.
Social engagement is a major component of overall wellness. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1999 followed 2,761 people age 65 and older who participated in a variety of activities over a span of 13 years. Ultimately, the study found that those who focused their time on social activities (such as volunteering or spending time with friends) were just as healthy as those who focused their time on exercising. Social interaction has even been shown to improve immune function according to Ohio State University immunologist Ronald Glaser. When this social interaction takes the form of volunteering, it provides additional benefits, especially for certain groups of people.(1)
When you volunteer by giving your time, it can boost your subjective well-being, a term that describes your happiness and your
perceived quality of life. According to some studies, this effect may be greatest among older volunteers. As people age, their social roles change as their children leave home, they retire from their careers, and their active social groups dissolve. The loss of these social roles can make one feel that her importance and value have decreased. However, volunteering may counteract the negative effects of role losses, and therefore create a positive impact on subjective well-being.(2)
When you volunteer by giving money and goods, your overall feelings of contentment improve. The stress of financial hardship and uncertainty can have severe effects on your happiness. But during times of economic distress—whether it is in the larger political landscape or in your personal life—volunteering can decrease the negative emotional impact of financial loss and insecurity. A quick search on job loss and depression yields advice from numerous sources that suggest you should start volunteering after a job loss. When you are able to give of what you have and see yourself in comparison to those who have less, this new-found perspective can decrease the desperation of your own situation. And when you volunteer your time, you also gain the additional benefits of social interaction.
Locally, there are many charity organizations that will put your volunteered time and money to good use. Two organizations that my co-workers at Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants wanted to help through the gift of time and goods
were the St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen and the Children’s Advocacy Center. The office donated money to host a day of meals at St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen and staff also gave their time by serving lunch on another day. Staff donated money and time to the Children’s Advocacy Center by collecting donations and then shopping for stuffed animals to give to the center. The toys will go to children who enter the center as victims of abuse and neglect.
The needs of the Scranton area are fulfilled by numerous local charities that would benefit by your gifts of time and money. With spring and summer approaching, use your increased energy, the beautiful weather, and maybe even some of your vacation time to help yourself by helping others.
To learn more about the Children’s Advocacy Center visit http://www.cacnepa.org or call 570-969-7313. To learn more about the St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen, visit http://www.stfranciskitchen.org or call 570-342-5556.
 “Life of the Party: Study shows that socializing can extend your life.” 2 April 2011. WebMD Inc. 30 Jan. 2005. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50788>
 George, Linda K. “Still Happy After All These Years: Research Frontiers on Subjective Well-being in Later Life.” Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 65B(3), 331–339. March 16, 2010. Psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org 3 April 2011.
CAC Photo: MMPTC staff with toys to donate to Children’s Advocacy Center:
(Front Row, From Left): Tina Evans, PTA; Jen Hnatko; John Bedford, DPT;
(Back Row, From Left): Janet Caputo, PT, OCS; Paul Mackarey, PT, DHSc, OCS, Owner, Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants
St. Francis Photo: MMPTC staff serve lunch at St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen.
(From Left) Dominque DelPrete, Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants; Thomas (Chick) DiPietro, Chef and Volunteer Coordinator, St. Francis Kitchen; Jen Hnatko, Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.
Guest Columnist: Jennifer Hnatko – Jen Hnatko, has a BA in English from the University of Scranton and is employed at Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants, LLC.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”