Rethinking Healthcare

People who need people are also the healthiest

People who need people are also the healthiest

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Researchers found that seniors participating in a youth mentoring program made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities important to planning and organizing daily life.

One thing I have learned this year is that helping other people helps you more.

I learned this from my son. I pushed him to tutor kids at his old middle school several years ago.

When he failed to gain entry into the colleges of his choice last spring, and had a semester "off," I encouraged him to do more of it. He added service at a local park.

He's much better. He starts college next month, and he's far readier than he would have been otherwise. When life kicks you in the teeth, other people bring you back.

So it was no surprise for me to read this study from Johns Hopkins saying older people who remain active in social activities -- volunteering, for instance -- retain their brain function longer than their lonely peers.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that seniors participating in a youth mentoring program made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities important to planning and organizing one's daily life.

You feel better, too.

The group on which the study is based upon, Experience Corps, does something very like what my son did this fall. It brings older adults into the lives of school-age children, ostensibly to help the kids read or do figures, but other kinds of learning and teaching go on too.

I followed my son's example this year, becoming more involved in our local community group. It's time I might otherwise spend in front of the TV. It helps my writing to be with other people, it's gratifying to see people who care about others, and I plan on doing more of it.

At this rate I'll live to be 100. So can you.

Why do you think Santa goes "ho-ho-ho" all the time? It's not because he likes shoveling reindeer poop. It's the kids.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure