19,000 sign up for our campaign... as major study shows volunteering can ward off dementia
VOLUNTEERING for just two hours a week can help to ward off dementia, a major study found.
Keeping active in retirement was found to reduce memory problems and boost thinking skills by 6 per cent.
The findings by experts come after more than 19,000 people have signed up to the Daily Mail’s campaign to boost volunteer numbers in the NHS.
Today Justin Welby gives his support to the campaign, commending those who have already pledged their time and encouraging others to follow suit. The Archbishop of Canterbury says volunteers are in a privileged position and can give the precious time busy doctors and nurses do not have.
He writes: ‘By joining the Hospital Helpforce – pledging as little as three hours a week, or one day a month of your time – you could have a profound impact on the lives of patients, whether giving practical help like picking up prescriptions, offering a shoulder to cry on, talking to patients who may be elderly or confused, or staffing helpdesks to make the hospitals as efficient as possible.’ The Christmas campaign with the charity Helpforce aims to fill important roles such as providing patients with companionship, delivering prescriptions and even running singing groups.
Last week, a major report by respected health think tank, The King’s Fund, found voluntary help reduces pressures on NHS staff. Research by charity the Royal Voluntary Service has also shown the benefits to those on the receiving end.
Now researchers say there is compelling evidence that this can benefit volunteers as well as patients and staff.
The study, published in The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, followed 64,000 adults in the US, who were aged 60 and over, between 1998 and 2010. It found those who completed volunteer work for 100 hours a year – just two hours a week – scored 6 per cent higher in cognitive testing than non-volunteers did.
It adds to growing evidence that stimulating activities – such as reading to patients – can contribute to maintaining brainpower into old age.
Dr Sumedha Gupta, of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said the evidence showed it was ‘win-win situation’ for all involved.
‘Volunteering is different from other activities,’ she said. ‘For instance, if you were playing Sudoku, it would give you brain stimulation but it does not provide you social interaction or make you move.
‘If you volunteer, it is really good because it draws three things – physical stimulation, social interaction as well as cognitive stimulation – all into one. If they don’t volunteer, their cognitive scores decline faster.’
Dr Gupta added: ‘The amount of time the Daily Mail is asking people to volunteer – three hours a week – is also almost exactly that in the study. I think this campaign will be a meaningful exercise for all involved.’