This week’s paper includes a special section on senior living. Census data shows that in 2010, 16.4 percent of Fauquier’s residents were 65 or older. Chances are, that number will be higher when the 2020 census is tallied -- that means more folks who may not be working full time, but who still want to stay active and productive.

There have been numerous medical studies on the health and psychological benefits of volunteering in older adults. Volunteerism has been credited with easing depression and increasing physical activity and longevity.

One medical study highlighted in the February 2010 issue of The Gerontologist talks about the specific benefits of environmental volunteerism – an option that is more available in Fauquier County than in more urban areas. The study abstract reads “… it is reasonable to hypothesize that environmental volunteerism may be associated with general physical health. One obvious potential mechanism for this effect is the increased physical activity.” 

But, it continues, “A second potential mechanism linking environmental volunteering to physical health outcomes is increased exposure to nature, because outdoor activities such as clearing trails, testing streams, cleaning up nature preserves and similar activities characterize volunteering for the environment. Research over the past several decades has demonstrated various health-related benefits of exposure to nature for individuals of all ages, including older adults… Nature has also been found to serve as a ‘social magnet’—drawing people together and fostering a sense of community. 

“The beneficial effects of exposure to nature, including greater social integration, is thus a plausible pathway linking environmental volunteerism with health.” 

There it is, scientific proof that playing around in forests and streams is good for you.

For those whose grandchildren don’t keep them busy enough or maybe for those who are newly retired and seeking a new challenge, we have a suggestion: the PATH Volunteer Hub.

The pathforyou.org website has a volunteer tab. Several videos on that page explain the volunteer hub and how you can find opportunities that fit your interests and availability.

If you are ready to jump right in, go to letsvolunteer.org and explore the database of volunteer options by clicking on “view more opportunities.” 

You can easily filter by age, agency, county, distance, family-friendly, impact area, initiative, interest, outdoors, qualification, teams and wheelchair-accessible.

Lynn Lauritzen, PATH Volunteer Hub manager, suggests that age is not the best way to sort through the opportunities. Although some may think 55 and older qualifies as “senior citizen,” those at or approaching 55 know that isn’t really true anymore. As Lauritzen said, “So many 55- year-old folks can do what a 35-year-old could do.”

She suggests, “I think the important distinction to make is not necessarily age, but physical mobility limitations, if any, and time.”

Not interested in trying to navigate the database? Call the PATH Volunteer Center and talk to Laurtizen. She promises to help you find a volunteer position that best fits your situation and interests. Lauritzen can be reached at 540-680-4148. She is passionate about helping people help their community. She can help you find a way to contribute your time and talents in a way that is valuable to you.

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