Give away your time to keep your brain cells

Want to find a way to keep all of your brain cells working for you long-term? Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that retired people who donate their time as volunteers have a significantly lower risk of developing dementia than those who don’t.

The study included 1,001 Swedish citizens who retired in 2010. It tracked them for five years, monitoring them for the development of cognitive issues. As part of the study, they were divided into three groups: those who consistently volunteered in their communities at least one hour per week, those who sporadically engaged in volunteering, and those who never engaged in volunteering.

For purposes of the study, volunteering is defined as an activity done for no monetary compensation to benefit others outside of the individual’s family, such as a church, school, library or homeless shelter.

Volunteers who were engaged on a weekly basis were found to be 2.44 times less likely to develop dementia than the seniors who didn’t volunteer. Those who volunteered sporadically did not fare any better than those who never volunteered.

“This study reinforces research the Alzheimer’s Association has funded on the importance of remaining socially engaged,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “In fact, our multi-year POINTER study is exploring social engagement as one factor, along with diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors, and how they can directly influence each individual’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

More than 47 million people around the world, including nearly 6 million people in the United States and 73,000 in Colorado, are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the only leading disease without a prevention, treatment or cure, and it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers educational information, programs and services at no charge to all Colorado families, but Schafer noted one more benefit.

“The reason that we can offer our programs and services at no charge is that we rely on the generosity of more than 1,000 volunteers each year,” said Schafer. “We rely on volunteers to deliver programs, facilitate support groups, help at events, handle public inquiries, input data and so much more. We welcome the opportunity to talk with and train any interested volunteers.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Alzheimer’s Association, call 303-813-1669 or the Association’s free 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900, or go to

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