Benefits of Environmental Activism for Older Adults

Engagement with others in the climate movement, given my age – I'm 74 – is actually is good for my health. I'm not exactly sure why, but it energizes me and keeps me on my toes.

George Keith

Most people think of volunteering as supporting their communities or a cause they care deeply about. But there is substantial evidence older people also benefit from investing time in non-profit organizations, political action, and other community groups.

Research demonstrates that environmental activism specifically supports health and wellness later in life, even more so than other types of volunteer work.

There are a number of likely reasons:

  • Volunteering gets them moving. Research suggests that volunteer roles that involve physical activity, as does most environmental volunteering, offers significant health benefits to older people.
  • Time in nature improves health. Environmental volunteering typically leads to more exposure to nature. Think about activities such as clearing trails, testing streams, and cleaning up nature preserves. Research over the past several decades clearly demonstrates being in nature provides major health benefits to people of all ages, including older adults. For many volunteers, environmental volunteering continues a lifelong pattern of spending time outside. 
  • Environmental activism promotes intergenerational relationships. Environmental organizations are age-integrated; that is, they bring together people of different ages in meaningful activities. Research demonstrates that intergenerational relationships improve the mental health of older adults, build community, and help to prevent ageism.
  • Climate activism helps older people "give back." Research on human development shows that older people experience a need for generativity, or the ability to preserve the world for future generations. Environmental volunteerism provides an avenue for older adults to make a real difference that will improve the world for years to come. 

For more information

An article published in the Gernotologist of the health benefits of environmental volunteering for older adults.

A review article published by Cambridge University Press on the importance of generativity later in life.

A research review that shows exposure to nature improves the quality of life for older adults.