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Formal Volunteering As A Protective Factor For Older Adults’ Psychological Well-Being

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Volunteering not only helps strengthen communities, but also promotes individual well-being. More specifically, volunteering among the geriatric community has been shown to yield a greater benefit than that of the younger population regarding emotional, psychological, and physical health. The study I will be analyzing asserts how formal volunteering is shown to be a protective factor for older adults’ psychological well-being. Although this article uses a sociological lens rather than an occupational one, it informs our understanding of occupations and well-being. This paper will discuss how the constructs surrounding occupational identity, engagement, and meaning aid in our understanding of occupation as well foster one’s health.

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The study in focus highlights the sociological disciplinary origins by its guided use of interactional role theory and resilience framework. The first suggests that our occupations, create role-identities, which in turn contribute to our sense of self. The latter, is a multidimensional process explaining how individuals may use protective factors to limit the amount of negative outcomes they face after experiencing a form of adversity. Sociology enables you to understand society but most importantly broadens your perspective in all aspects of life. Thus, the implications brought forth from investigating older adults with role-identity absences creates a dynamic discussion about the interconnectedness of our identity, meaning and engagement in our daily occupations. The disciplinary origins of sociology inform our understanding of occupation because sociology is the study of human relations, environment/societal implications, and behavior.

Occupational identity involves who you wish to become and your sense of self influenced by the history of one’s occupational participation. A role-identity absence refers to the lack of a dutiful function/ responsibility/character in any major life domain. Many people experience feelings of identity-loss when they no longer engage in activities that were once a vital part of their lives.

Argument: Individuals with a greater number of role-identity absences are at were found to be at a higher risk for poor psychological well-being. For example, parents sometimes experience “empty nest syndrome”, a phenomenon that invokes feelings of sadness when their children move out.

Findings from the Greenfield & Marks (2004) study show a significant positive correlation between the number of major role-identity absences and negative affect.

Explanation: Adelman’s (1994) work confirmed how the construct of occupational identity is so vital to our well-being, by explaining how older adults become “roleless” which causes deprivation of identity in society and as well unstructured life plan. In addition, she argues that as one ages there is less opportunity for formal roles which creates a “role deficit” thus threatening individual well-being and sense of self; identity. Thus, the ability to exert leadership qualities or be part of an end goal through volunteering, can ultimately lessen our feelings of role-identity absence. With that said, the value of increasing occupational engagement in meaningful activities is critical. Occupational engagement, although sometimes used interchangeably with participation‚ deals with the act of being involved in various desired or necessary activities in your environmental interaction throughout the day which can aid in one’s well-being. This explains how the occupations done during volunteering may be a contributing factor to improved psychological health since it provides a mechanism through which older adults can engage with their environment while simultaneously accomplishing personal goals.

Argument: The effect of major role-identity absences on respondents’ feelings of purpose in life is contingent upon whether or not they volunteer. For example, older adults’ who engage in various occupations in their communities leads to the opportunity for creating social bonds and connections with others. Although some volunteer positions can have little to no contact with people, it most likely increases social contact with others. This social contact is considered to have a protective effect on mortality for socially isolated older adults than for those who are socially integrated. These findings suggest that the effect of major role-identity absences on respondents’ is contingent upon whether or not they volunteer. Thus, through occupational engagement, positive multidimensional factors can occur within our environment to create our sense of self which ultimately promotes engagement in the occupations. Occupational meaning, is the personal, social, and cultural factors that can impact motivation, and performance of occupation, which can be connected to our values and beliefs. According to the primary article, volunteering might provide older adults with an opportunity for developing significance in their lives.

Argument: In the study, positive affect was seen in older adults who were volunteers. This demonstrates the value attached to their volunteer duties, evokes positive feelings and meaning. Hence, the results demonstrated that being a volunteer was a momentous predictor of more positive affect. It’s also important to note that because the meaning of our roles can assert power internally and externally, it can affect how we present ourselves, how we are treated and how we think and feel. More specifically, volunteering might hold more meaning among the geriatric community as it has been shown to yield a greater benefit than that of the younger population regarding emotional, psychological, and physical health due to the fact that they are more commonly missing other major role-identities such as previous employment and spousal role identities.

In conclusion, a cyclical effect occurs whereby occupational identity, creates meaning that aids in active occupational engagement. The benefits that arise from volunteering are multifaceted as the factors affecting the occupation of volunteering are multidimensional. Through our occupational lens guided by a sociological concept it is clear that formal volunteering is shown to be a protective factor for older adults psychological well-being. Furthermore, it is through the constructs surrounding occupational identity, engagement and meaning which aid in our understanding of occupation as well foster one’s health and well-being.

29 April 2020

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