We have launched a new intervention study, called "Research of Productivity by Intergenerational Sympathy (REPRINTS)" in which senior volunteers engage in reading picture books to children. The "REPRINTS" program consistently involves social roles and intellectual activity, two higher-level functional capacities. This study reported findings and problems experienced through "REPRINTS" during the first year, ascertained potential effectiveness of social activity, and proposed methods for continued activity.
Basic concepts of "REPRINTS"program include "contribution to society", "life-long learning", and "group activity." Sixty seven volunteers and 74 controls, all aged 60 years and over living in three areas, ie., Chuo-ku, central Tokyo, Kawasaki city, suburb of Tokyo and Nagahama city, a local city, participated in a baseline health check-up in June, 2004. After completion of 3-month training seminars (once a week, 2 hr per session), volunteers visited public elementary schools and kindergartens in groups of 6-10 persons for 6 months. They were assessed again by follow-up health check-up in March, 2005.
At baseline, the proportion of those who had no grand children (41.8% vs. 20.3%, P= 0.006), average school years (13.4 +/- 2.5 vs. 12.3 +/- 2.5 years, P= 0.008), having any experience of volunteer activities (79.1% vs. 52.7%, P=0.001), and an usual walking speed (86.7 +/- 12.3 vs. 81.3 +/- 12.9 m/min, P=0.012) were significantly higher in volunteers than in controls. There was no significant difference in other baseline characteristics between the two groups. At follow-up, social network scores for 56 volunteers were significantly improved: frequency of contact with grandchildren and others around neighborhood and size of circles of friends and acquaintances were increased, as compared to controls. Social support scores for the volunteers significantly decreased in the receiving aspect, while increased in the giving aspect. In addition, consciousness of loving community and self-rated health were significantly enhanced and hand-grip strength showed significantly less decline in volunteers than in controls.
Through engaging in the intergenerational and intellectual volunteer programs for 9 months, subjective health, social support and network, consciousness of loving community and some aspects of physical performance were significantly promoted in senior volunteers. Coordination of existing administrative services enabled us to establish this "REPRINTS" health promotion program for community-dwelling older adults.