Did you know? Volunteering isn’t just good for society—it can also contribute to brain health! Sharing your knowledge, skills, and experience stimulates your neurons and greatly improves your chances of keeping your mind sharp as you age.
Put simply, volunteering or tutoring gives your brain a workout: making decisions or devising and executing a plan, for example, requires a certain degree of mental effort. In addition, volunteering creates opportunities for you to move your body and expand your social network, which helps you maintain a physically active and a cognitively stimulating life. The more intellectually stimulating activities you do, the healthier your brain can be!
The associations between volunteering and physical and mental health are well established. But what about cognitive health? A 2018 study of 11,100 people aged 51 and older found that formal volunteering is associated with higher levels of cognitive functioning over time, including working memory and information processing speed.
Something for everyone
With the current labour shortage, plenty of opportunities exist to help out. Many organizations recruit volunteers. Between your experience and your interests, there are many areas to explore:
- Youth education: reading to kids, helping with homework or extracurricular activities, giving a talk about your profession or favourite hobby, etc.
- Music and art: giving a concert in a seniors’ residence, helping organize a block party or a fundraising campaign, etc.
- Nature and environment: contributing to a neighbourhood greening project, cultivating a community garden, helping out at an animal shelter or lake association, etc.
- Technology and social media: providing computer support at the library, giving classes at the community centre, maintaining a web page for a cause you care about, etc.
- Social justice: advocating for issues such as literacy, human rights, seniors’ rights, Indigenous peoples’ rights, sexual and gender diversity, etc.
- Helplines: taking calls for Kids Help Phone, Tel-Aide Montreal, Interligne, etc.
Whether you’re giving your time to a local or international organization, by phone or in person—there’s nothing more fulfilling than helping others.
Two resources for finding volunteer opportunities: