Three Surprising Health Benefits of Volunteering

Male-Volunteer-MMCMany people, particularly after retirement, choose to volunteer as a way to give back to their community. Another bonus is that volunteering is good for both the physical and mental health of the person donating their time.

Memorial Medical Center currently has more than 300 volunteers who serve the hospital in a variety of ways. From delivering flowers to patients, to transporting patients and visitors, to knitting hats and scarves, MMC could not operate without the generosity of our volunteers. Here are just a few of the health benefits our volunteers enjoy:

1. Physical activity and exercise

A great aspect of volunteering is that you often have control over your hours, and you can find a working situation that meets your physical needs. Some volunteers sit at desks, requiring little physical exertion. Others, like Memorial patient escorts, opt to get a workout every time they report for duty. During a standard four hour shift, our escorts walk three to four miles. It’s a fun way to get exercise – in any weather.

2. Friendship

An apple a day may be great advice, but few things outweigh the health benefits of positive social interactions with friends.

Trish Fehr, LCPC, CADC, with Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, appreciates how volunteering can motivate seniors with a specific focus, which also helps combat depression and isolation.

“When you commit to volunteer work, you are typically among like-minded people,” said Fehr. “As you gather around a common purpose, you realize that each person has specific strengths. Volunteering helps you appreciate one another better and begin to form a bond with people around the volunteering.”

With 321 volunteers working in 15 areas of the hospital, Memorial volunteers often find many opportunities to build friendships and make a difference in the lives of patients, employees and visitors every day.

3. Learning new skills

“Our volunteers are an integral part of the healthcare experience for patients,” said Becky Gabany, director of Volunteer and Community Services at Memorial. “Therefore they have the opportunity to learn new skills, or perhaps apply current ones in a new way.”

Among the many jobs they do, volunteers at Memorial transport patients around the hospital, direct visitors, run the Gift Shop and serve in pastoral care roles. Such duties often require critical thinking skills that help keep the brain challenged and active. According to the National Institute on Aging, engaging in socially and intellectually stimulating activities may lower the risk of chronic diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) and boost health and well-being.

If you, or someone you know, could benefit from volunteering at Memorial, we welcome new help! For more information or to apply to volunteer, contact Volunteer Services at 217-788-3352.

  • Brandon Roberts

    I can definitely agree with you when you said that volunteering build and make friendships. My wife and I try to volunteer at the homeless shelter every once in a while. And from me doing that, I have definitely made friends with all the staff, and some of the people that I work with. http://www.ifrevolunteers.org/volunteer_abroad.php