While a senior citizen’s body may seem to change – silver hair, wrinkled skin and changes in mobility, for example – their hearts and desires are the same as anyone else’s: seniors want to feel loved, wanted and needed.
The problem is that some of those aforementioned physical changes can leave them feeling depressed, isolated and alone. As spouses and peers pass away or move to various retirement homes, seniors lose their social networks. When elderly adults relinquish their car keys, they surrender their independence and their ability to get out and about in the community. If they succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, it becomes harder for family and friends to enjoy their company, which often translates to reduced visits and outings.
Even so, there are things you can do to make senior family members feel needed and valued. Here are some suggestions:
Get them volunteering. There is great benefit in being of service to others, and this is a benefit that many seniors lack once they lose their independence. In fact, when a senior requires in-home care or lives in an assisted living community, it can feel like they’re always “taking” rather than “giving,” and that is crushing to the ego and an individual’s sense of self-worth.
Look for opportunities for you and your senior family members to work together in acts of service. Is there a soup kitchen looking for volunteers? Does a local homeless shelter need someone to make and serve coffee in the mornings? Perhaps a local orphanage or children’s home could use someone to hold the babies or read to the older children. If you have the time, volunteer with your senior loved one. If not, see if different members of your family can take turns volunteering once a week or once a month. It’s a two-for-one benefit – more time with your loved one as well as a chance to give back to your community.
To start, visit HandsOn Bay Area or The Volunteer Center of the East Bay to explore possibilities in and around the Bay Area. You can also contact local churches and non-profits to see if they need extra hands or hearts.
Inspire Involvement in Local Clubs. Working adults have all kinds of plans for when they retire. However, the retirement years aren’t always as free as one may have imagined them to be. Then, as the social calendar clears and children/grandchildren get older – each day can feel like a void without any way to fill up the empty hours. This is where local clubs can be of assistance.
Ask senior loved ones about any prior or current hobbies and then find a local club or chapter that matches. Perhaps your grandmother used to love ballet, now she can enjoy a local ballroom dance group. Maybe your parents used to play bridge with neighbors; odds are there is a local bridge club looking for members and on-call extras. Seniors who love music may enjoy singing in a community choir or volunteering for the local orchestra or choir for their concerts and performances, while avid gardeners may enjoy volunteering in a community garden project. Joining a club helps to provide a sense of purpose and provide seniors with a sense of responsibility, “I can’t miss bridge on Tuesday, I’d let my partner (or the foursome) down…”.
Make Use of Their Skill Sets. Most seniors were taught skills that are “dying out” in our more disposable culture. Things like darning socks, mending clothes, knitting, refinishing, cooking homemade meals from scratch, basic woodworking and repairing – all of these are going by the wayside. However, as much as our culture has a reputation for purchasing disposable goods – it is becoming increasingly focused on reusing, recycling and repurposing.
This makes for a perfect opportunity for children and grandchildren to learn from their elders. In addition to acquiring important, basic life skills – a mix of generations makes for a synergistic experience – talking, sharing stories, hearing different perspectives and providing mutual love and support to one another.
Have you noticed a senior loved one is feeling a bit down, depressed or lonely lately? Is a parent or grandparent looking fragile than usual? Contact HomeAide Health Care and we’ll be happy to provide an in-home assessment. It might be that a little extra companionship or weekly transportation to social events and groups will help to renew their inner spark.