May is Older American Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our society. And what better way to demonstrate the vital role that older adults have in our community than to engage them in meaningful activities where the gift of their time makes an impact.

Engaging older adults in volunteering benefits our community and the volunteer at the same time: a new study shows that people with a strong sense of purpose in life have a 23 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of having a stroke, heart attack or the need for coronary bypass surgery or cardiac stenting.

“Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” says lead study author Randy Cohen, MD. “Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event. As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of ‘do I have a sense of purpose in my life?’ If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being.”

The late Wayne Dyer, in his book There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, explains the idea of having a life purpose this way: “I suggest that you remember that the only thing you can do with your life is to give it away. In any moment when you are reaching outside your own self-indulgence and attempting to serve others, you are on purpose.”

Volunteers who want to serve local nonprofits have the opportunity to be part of Community Thread’s annual service event. Spring into Service will take place on Saturday, May 21 from 9 am-noon with a volunteer appreciation picnic to follow. Volunteers have the opportunity to sign up for a service site of their choice.

Volunteers may choose from projects such as planting trees at Lake Elmo Park Reserve, yard cleanup at Merrick, Inc., or sorting food at Valley Outreach, all local nonprofits that are strengthened by a helping hand. Supporting these and other nonprofits by volunteering at this special event is a great way to “be on purpose”.

Volunteers may sign up as an individual or as a team on Community Thread Connect ( Instructions about how to sign up are located at the top of the page, with service sites at the bottom of the page. You may also call the Community Thread Volunteer Center at 651-439-7434 to register by May 13.

Volunteer and get engaged. Your health, and your community, will thank you.

By Sally Anderson