Volunteering Served as a Transitional Role That Enhances the Well-Being and Cognitive Health Among Older Adults With Cognitive Impairments

J Appl Gerontol. 2021 Nov;40(11):1568-1578. doi: 10.1177/0733464820982731. Epub 2020 Dec 24.


Objectives: We examined whether volunteering among older adults with cognitive impairments serves as a transitional role that can enhance these older persons' well-being and cognitive health.

Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we selected older adults with cognitive impairments (N = 472) and developed linear mixed models to assess associations between volunteering and health outcomes.

Results: Volunteers in our sample were mostly females, non-Hispanic whites, those with higher income, and those with a high-school diploma. Volunteering was associated with higher levels of self-rated health, and consistent participation in volunteer work was related to stronger feelings of purpose in life. Cognitive health slightly improved over time only among those who volunteered.

Discussion: We demonstrate that cognitive impaired older adults' participation in the volunteer role can benefit cognitive health while strengthening their late life resilience.

Keywords: community; health and retirement study; psychosocial; self-rated health; social engagement.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Volunteers*
  • White People