WEDNESDAY, April 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Both seniors and children benefit when seniors volunteer in inner-city elementary schools.
Four studies found that seniors who do this kind of volunteer work showed significant increases in their physical activity, strength, social networks and cognitive activity after four to eight months. And the students had marked improvements in academic achievement and behavior.
The findings are from the first randomized controlled trials of the national Experience Corps program, operating in 18 U.S. cities. The in-school volunteer program began as a pilot project in six Baltimore public elementary schools in the 1999-2000 school year.
The senior volunteers in the Experience Corps fulfill a number of roles in classrooms and libraries for at least 15 hours a week.
"Relatively little research has focused on the impact of older adults on the well-being of young children, but this shows that cross-age interaction can produce positive outcomes," researcher George W. Rebok, a professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.
Teachers at many urban schools are overworked due to school underfunding. Senior volunteers can provide additional attention to students, helping them improve their grades and behavior.
The research findings appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine.
Here's where you can learn more about Experience Corps.