Health Benefits of Time Banks

give and take

Give and Take: How Timebanking is Transforming Health Care

by David Boyle and Sarah Bird (Timebanking UK 2014)

Book Review

Give and Take summarizes a remarkable 2012-13 study by Timebanking UK, in which time banks were incorporated into GP practices to address unmet needs of patients over 65-year olds.

The project was the brain child of Timebanking UK coordinator Susan Ross-Turner and incorporated the work of John McKnight, founder of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute in Chicago. Ross-Turner saw it as an innovative solution to an overburdened health and social service sector struggling to serve a burgeoning elderly population.

High unemployment and lower wages – combined with high prices for food and energy – are really bad news for local economies. Residents want and need products and services local merchants have to offer but no money to pay for them.

A complementary currency is an alternative form of money used alongside an official or national currency. New Plymouth has had a complementary currency called the “talent” since the mid nineties. It was created by a group of retired and disabled residents to swap home grown veggies, soap, preserves, hand knit sweaters and second hand clothes books, books and household items.

A time bank is used to trade services rather than products. Through the Taranaki Time Bank, I can earn an hour credit for weeding someone’s garden. I can then use that credit to get my law mowed or the washers replaced in my sink.

Besides affording the cash-poor a new avenue to meet basic needs, forming a time bank is also very effective way of rebuilding communities that have been fragmented by globalization and corporatization.

Cooperation and mutual interdependence are fundamental to any healthy society. Time banks help move us in that direction. They encourage us to rely on one another for basic needs, rather than experts and technology.

The Timebanking UK Experiment

A total of 92 GP practices joined Ross-Turner’s timebanking project. They enrolled 1660 patients over 65 in time banking activities. They would participate in over 29,000 exchanges.

In one area, GPs wrote prescriptions for home visits by fellow patients instead of medication. Unsurprisingly both patients derived health benefits from the exchange. Other research confirms that the ability to a make meaningful social contribution is the single most important factor in elderly mortality rates. In one study, people over seventy who volunteered 1,000 or more hours a year were one-third less likely to die and two-thirds less likely to report bad health.

In another district, the time bank operated a health self-help telephone service. Time bank volunteers staffed the service using an assessment designed by clinicians.

One rural health scheme automatically enrolled every hospitalized patient over 65 in a time bank at the time of discharge.

Other health-related time bank services offer included prostate cancer group meetings, pilates classes, tai chi classes, aquafit classes, sewing groups and a “keep history alive” group.

Study findings:

  • Time bank involvement led to a significant decrease in depression, social isolation, hospitalizations and ER visits.
  • Time bank involvement enabled participants to remain in their own homes longer and postpone the need for nursing home care.
  • Time banks were an excellent way to attract people who don’t normally volunteer.


Joining a Time Bank

I have just joined the Taranaki Time Bank here in New Plymouth.

People can find a time bank in their own area through the following links:

Time Banking UK

TimeBanks USA

Time Bank Australia

Time Bank Aotearoa New Zealand