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The Effects of Volunteer Participation on People with Cognitive Impairment

1 January 2014


Evidence suggests older adults benefit when engaging in volunteer and art activities. The purpose of this study is to explore how individuals with mild to moderate cognitive impairment benefit from volunteering in a program that produces artistic and creative work. Participants living in the assistive living sector of a faith-based community were invited to participate in a group activity that consisted of making greeting cards for others’ use. These individuals recently lost the ability to participate in their previous volunteer positions due to cognitive decline. Interested participants volunteered in weekly sessions constructing greeting cards for the purpose of donation to larger community. Findings based on participants’ feedback included a newer sense of purpose through a sense of confidence and self-efficacy, satisfaction with giving back to their community, and appreciation for the positive social opportunity. Participants voiced surprise at their ability to successfully engage in the activity. They assumed lack of skills. Findings based on feedback from the caregivers included noticing higher positive affect in participants after the card-making sessions; excitement expressed at having cards available for others’ use; and participants looking forward to the art group each week. Volunteering combined with creative work may enhance purposeful living.


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