The concept of "productive aging" has been used to promote older adults' involvement in productive activities in their later years, regardless of whether these activities are compensated. Many public and private initiatives encourage older people to remain involved in productive activities, particularly formal volunteering. These initiatives frequently claim that formal volunteering not only provides a valuable service to the community, but also can actually improve the physical and mental health of older people.
There has been a great deal of research that links formal volunteerism with increased physical and mental health of older people. Underlying much of the research on the connection between volunteerism and physical and mental health is the notion that being a volunteer is a productive role, which is an important role for people of all ages. Role theory suggests that through engaging in a productive role, such as being a volunteer, older people increase their social networks, resources and emotional gratification, all of which can have a positive effect on their physical and mental health. Conversely, for those who volunteer too many hours, role theory suggests they may experience role strain and thus might not have any physical and mental health benefits from volunteering. Role theory is quite useful in explaining the mechanisms of why volunteerism could be linked with improved physical and mental health for older people.
Most of the research on the correlation between volunteering and health, however, has measured health solely on the basis of an individual's self-perceived health. Although perceptions of health themselves are important, as they often relate to an individual's adaptations to a medical or mental condition, perceived health is not necessarily related to actual medical or mental conditions, or to physical or mental functioning, or to mortality. Changes in perceived health could signify that volunteering actually slows the onset of medical conditions and slows the decline in functioning of older people; or it could mean that volunteering simply changes people's perceptions regarding their health or their adaptations to their health. Initiatives encouraging formal volunteering among older people should be careful not to promise improved physical and mental health.
Which of the following statements could one infer from role theory as presented in this passage?
A) Engaging in a productive role will result in more physical and mental health benefits if the activity is financially compensated.
B) Working adults should not retire.
C) Engaging in a productive role is more important for older people than for younger people.
D) People will experience role strain if they volunteer too often.
E) Older adults are more likely to participate in a productive role if they think that their health or mental health is beginning to decline.
The correct answer is (D). Answer choice (E) is tricky but incorrect. Role theory suggests that engaging in a productive role might lead to physical and mental health benefits, but does not suggest that people with declining physical and mental health would be more likely to seek out such a role. (B) is not an inference that can be drawn from the passage. (C) is incorrect, as role theory is not presented as being more applicable for understanding the behavior of older as opposed to younger people. Finally, (A) is incorrect, as paragraph one states that engaging in productive activities leads to benefits regardless of compensation. Thus, (D) is correct as a valid inference. People who overextend themselves might experience role strain.
I don't feel that answer (D) is a correct inference. It was more of a direct statement within the passage than something to be extrapolated. Furthermore, the subject of (D) is "people" which is overly broad.