In this paper, I use a narrow definition offered by Bass, Caro, & Chen (1993): productive activity is any activity that produces goods or services, whether paid for or not. Activities included in this definition are volunteering, working, and caregiving. These activities are clearly a subset of activities in which older adults engage, and they have a common element: they have social benefit, benefits that extend beyond the individual. In this paper, I review what we do know about the impact of productive engagement on the individual older adult. This paper will focus on employment, volunteering, and caregiving as independent variables in regards to outcomes related to well-being in the later years of life. Well-being outcomes include mortality, physical health, mental health, functional ability, and life satisfaction. I will also highlight what is not known and what research questions should be a priority.
Morrow-Howell, N. (2000). Productive engagement of older adults: Effects on well-being (CSD Report No. 00-27) St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.