“Service enables them to find their value outside their own suffering,” says Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder of Give an Hour, a group of mental-health counselors who work with veterans, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., but serving across the country. “I don’t think there’s a mental-health professional on the planet who would disagree with the basic principle that serving others is therapeutic. This is not rocket science.”
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The data suggests that the elderly also gain benefits from community service: greater longevity, reduced depression and a greater sense of purpose.