Katie Elliott

First Advisor

Tristen Amador


Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions

Degree Name

MS Health Services Administration

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

60 pages


Older Americans no longer see retirement as an “endless vacation,” but increasingly as an active, engaged phase of life that includes volunteer work. Older adults have proven to be a group that participates extensively in volunteer work (Mutchler, Burr & Caro, 2003). Volunteering may benefit the volunteers themselves as well as the organizations and individuals they serve. Several mechanisms have been hypothesized by which volunteering is linked to improved well-being, health, and longevity. For example, volunteering provides increased opportunity for social contacts and facilitates access to social resources such as emotional, cognitive and material, and health related information (Luoh & Herzog, 2002). Objective There is substantial evidence to support the health benefits of volunteering by older adults. However, there was not substantial evidence of older adult volunteer’s perceptions of their physical and mental health as volunteers. Methods A literature review was conducted to substantiate findings by researchers including a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. Qualitative research was conducted by interviewing ten older adult volunteers. Data were transcribed and emerging themes were incorporated into a code book. Reliability was ascertained by using a second coder and Cohen’s Kappa reliability guidelines. Results The idea of volunteering represented an opportunity for the people interviewed to feel useful, help others, give back to their community, and feel socially engaged and connected. As a result of these activities the volunteers felt volunteering made them more aware of how they felt physical and mentally when they volunteered. Volunteering provided these individuals with a healthy boost to their self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. Volunteering gave them more energy, kept them active, and challenged them mentally. Conclusion Older adults recognize a definite relationship between their volunteer activities and positive perceptions of their physical and mental health.

Date of Award

Winter 2010

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colorado

Rights Statement

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