Does volunteering hold the secret to eternal youth?

Volunteering runs in my family. I’ve always been encouraged to give something back wherever I could – whether that’s giving an hour to help at an event, or more long term commitments, like being on the board of TimeBank. 

It’s tempting just to think about volunteering being something you give – after all, you’re donating your time, your skills and your knowledge. And of course, it’s a great chance to learn new skills too – I’ve learned a huge amount about management and the voluntary sector during my time on the TimeBank board. 

But what about the less tangible things? Let’s take a look at the other volunteers in my family. There’s my Gran – she’s 94 and would pass for 20 years younger. Despite ‘retiring’ at 59, she gives her time for free most weeks, volunteering for a local cancer charity for over 30 years. And she’s got no plan to retire from this – the company, sense of purpose and friendship she gains from this her volunteering are the things that keeps her young. 

My Dad, coming up to 70, is much the same. He’s volunteered at the Paralympics, the Commonwealth Games, the World Athletics Championships and is currently gearing up for the Cricket World Cup. Having worked all his life, you’d think he’d be ready for a break – but no, adventures such as these give him energy, endless enjoyment and the chance to meet new people and be part of a new team, again years after he’s formally retired. 

Undeniably, volunteering has played a key part in keeping both of them younger than their years. I’m not sure it’s quite working for me yet – though I’d welcome looking 20 – but I’d say being part of the TimeBank board has challenged me, inspired me, and introduced me to some really fantastic people I’d otherwise never have met. It may not quite be the secret to eternal youth, but it’s certainly one of the secrets to getting the most out of life!