For the past 10 years, Experience Corps has trained thousands of people over the age of 55 to tutor children in public schools across the country. The goal of the program is to support students in need, and the results are promising. Research shows that the program significantly boosts academic performance and enhances learning.
While it may seem like this is just about the kids, it's not. They're not the only ones benefiting from the program. An unexpected side effect is the positive impact on the volunteers. Studies show improvement in both the mental health and physical functioning of the volunteers, including mobility, stamina, and flexibility. In addition, they reported more physical activity, larger social networks, and higher self-esteem. They show improvement in memory and executive functioning, too. The increase in social ties and engagement in the community—a key measure of well-being in older adults—is noteworthy.
Perhaps most important of all is the fact that 86 percent say their lives improved because of the program. A renewed sense of purpose in life lies at the heart of these improvements.
In his TED talk Should You Live for Your Résumé or Your Eulogy? David Brooks captures the essential role of having a sense of purpose: