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article image'Senior prom' unites youth with elderly in Louisiana Special

By Carol Forsloff     Apr 22, 2010 in Health
A 'senior prom' in a small Southern town shows the benefits of both giving and receiving, that can come from altruistic acts.
A well-known saying tells us it's better to give than receive. But science and observation says both giving and receiving have benefits, as watching young people interact with nursing home patients demonstrated on Wednesday night.
Students from a sorority and fraternity at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana decided on a project to bring social stimulation to nursing home patients and in collaboration with the activities staff had a "senior prom" at the facility. The occasion brought 20 to 30 young men and women to interact with seniors and bring the type of activity said to promote good health.
These young people in Natchitoches gave to patients at a nursing home what science says is critical for emotional and physical health of the elderly and those with disabilities and received many of those same benefits themselves.
Acts of altruism  as shown here by young people interacting with seniors at a nursing home in Natchi...
Acts of altruism, as shown here by young people interacting with seniors at a nursing home in Natchitoches, benefit both giver and receiver.
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Recent scientific research reports how social stimulation helps improve the mental and physical health of the elderly. Depression in the elderly is common and often triggered by lack of social stimulation, according to information from new medical research. When seniors have family visits or social support their overall health improves.
It isn't just those people who are sick, injured or lonely who are helped by altruistic acts. Those who reach out to others to help them bring positive benefits to themselves, a psychologist who has researched this topic points out.
Stress and depression are relieved through social interaction and giver and receiver benefit.
Stress and depression are relieved through social interaction and giver and receiver benefit.
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Allan Luks, author of the Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others, researched what he calls "Helpers High" and has found that those who do good for others get a rush just like a runner gets following a workout. During that helping process, helpers get that high because the body releases endorphins which are brain chemicals that increase good feelings and reduce pain. After the rush of elation, the body subsequently has a period of calm and generally good feelings.
Luks tells us his research has found people who do good for others can also re-experience the high they received following their altruistic acts just by thinking about them long after the actual acts have taken place. His studies have found being charitable and volunteering helps the giver by:
-strengthening immune system activity
-decreasing intensity and awareness of physical pain
-activating positive emotions that support well-being
-reducing negative attitudes that deplete well-being
-enhancing functioning of various body systems
The sorority and fraternity members at a nursing home in Natchitoches expressed some of these good feelings on Wednesday night at the "senior prom." event, feeling a bit shy at the beginning but gradually involving themselves with the elderly so within minutes smiling faces of both the patients and the young people were apparent.
Proving once again, as Luks' book says and science reports, that giving and receiving in altruistic acts bring positive benefits to both giver and receiver. .
Young people in Natchitoches are receiving health benefits by providing social stimulation to nursin...
Young people in Natchitoches are receiving health benefits by providing social stimulation to nursing home patients.
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More about Seniors, Elderly, Senior prom, Charitable, Natchitoches
 

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