Experience Corps (EC) is a high-commitment US volunteer program that brings older adults into public elementary schools to improve academic achievement of students. It is viewed as a health promotion program for the older volunteers. We evaluated the effects of the EC program on older adults' health, using a quasi-experimental design. We included volunteers from 17 EC sites across the US. They were pre-tested before beginning their volunteer work and post-tested after two years of service. We compared changes over time between the EC participants (n = 167) and a matched comparison group of people from the US Health and Retirement Study (2004, 2006). We developed the comparison group by using the nearest available Mahalanobis metric matching within calipers combined with the boosted propensity scores of those participating in the EC. We corrected for clustering effects via survey regression analyses with robust standard errors and calculated adjusted post-test means of health outcomes, controlling for all covariates and the boosted propensity score of EC participants. We found that compared to the comparison group, the EC group reported fewer depressive symptoms and functional limitations after two years of participation in the program, and there was a statistical trend toward the EC group reporting less decline in self-rated health. Results of this study add to the evidence supporting high-intensity volunteering as a social model of health promotion for older adults.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.