Retired but active and helping others and helping himself

He is a volunteer, helping to maintain hiking trails with a chainsaw.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- If you heard Mel Skiles is retired and 72, you might think of him one way.

But this 72-year-old man is in tip-top shape and volunteers in the woods to help others.

"I've been active all my life," he said. "I've never been out of shape."

This is a man who retired as a radiologist on February 2011. And two weeks later he started hiking the Appalachian Trail.

"It was the hardest thing i ever did, but most wonderful thing I've done," he said of hiking the 2,181-mile trail.

"I've been doing something since I was a young kid."

He and his wife, Sandra, moved to the North Carolina mountains to be closer to their grandchildren.

Skiles is also a Carolina Mountain Club volunteer, using a chainsaw to help maintain trails.

"It's like I'm in there with nature seeing the physical world, and I'm not stressed out about daily activities or what I need to do with my schedule."

To Rebecca Chaplin, a community outreach director with the AARP, said Skiles is "a great example of being physically active while he's also being socially engaged and connected to nature."

Connecting to nature is know to reduce blood pressure, she said, and volunteering is said to reduce the incidence of heart disease.

Chaplin has spent her own career helping others when their working years are over.

"What are we really here for? We're here to give our gifts and to be our passion in the world."

Skiles explains himself this way: "My mind is free, and I feel I don't have any aches or pains. Being 72 and not having any aches and pains, I'm fortunate. I feel gratitude for that."

Research shows older adults who volunteer have lower mortality rates, less depression and higher self=esteem.

The AARP says one report shows that states with higher rates of volunteering have lower incidences of heart disease.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins found volunteering has significant brain benefits for aging adults.

For more on that study, go here.

And here is more information on the health benefits of volunteering.

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