During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we tend to get lost in our own busy schedules. Parties, shopping, and family get-togethers take priority over almost everything else. In a season of giving, it’s ironically easy to forget about the needs of others, especially senior citizens who are often alone at home or in a senior living facility. It’s important that we remember to honor these men and women as we partake in our own celebrations, and there are lots of ways to do so.
Volunteer With Seniors This Holiday Season
Volunteering may seem like a foreign and complicated concept, but it’s actually quite simple. Volunteering is simply giving of yourself to someone else in order to make their life easier and happier. There is currently a huge need for volunteers within the senior community. Here are some simple and fun ideas to get you started!
1) Share your gifts
We all have some type of gift – something we naturally excel at. And a gift, by its very nature, is meant to be shared with others. Music, art, crafts, and other talents are great ways to interact with seniors. Due to health, mobility, and other obstacles, the elderly don’t usually get to enjoy this type of cultural entertainment. You could completely change someone’s outlook on life by sharing an uplifting song, helping them to create something beautiful, or even just by making them laugh if you have a knack for humor.
If possible, make the experience interactive by performing a popular older song to allow for singing along or lead your audience in painting a simple picture with you rather than just passing out paper and markers. Allowing them to interact with you as you share your gift will take the experience to a new level and give your elderly friends a way to feel like they are a part of what you’re doing instead of watching from the sidelines.
2) Offer your ears
One of the biggest challenges in the senior population, especially during the holiday season, is the struggle with loneliness and depression. The majority of older people live alone or in assisted living facilities with or without a roommate, and they may feel ignored or forgotten by family and friends. These feelings may be exacerbated during the holidays when their loved ones are busier than normal. One of the simplest, yet most meaningful gestures you can make is simply to visit them. Take a few hours out of your week to offer your companionship to a nursing home resident or homebound senior.
Sitting with them, talking to them, and listening to them can make a huge difference in their perception of themselves and their lives. If possible, listen more than talk. Seniors, by definition, have been alive for a long time and have experienced many things the younger community hasn’t and probably never will. They have countless stories to tell, but often no one who will listen to them. Your willingness to sit and listen is perhaps the most meaningful way you can impact a senior’s life during the holiday season.
3) Visit with kids
Seniors often love to revisit the days of their youth and enjoy being around children. Take your kids with you when you visit and watch your new friends’ faces light up with joy. They will likely also absorb and benefit greatly from your kids’ energy! Let your kids read a book about Santa to them, or vice versa if possible. Have them bring along a special toy to show off or a piece of holiday artwork they’re proud of, or just help them to become engaged in a conversation. Your kids will benefit from the experience as well by learning compassion, selflessness, and just by seeing you be a part of it.
4) Help with chores/decorations
Many seniors choose to continue living at home, but they aren’t always able to do things themselves. A great way to help these men and women during the holidays is to volunteer to help with things around the house. Offer to help bring Christmas items out of storage and unpack them, and then help with putting up the Christmas tree and decorations. You can also help with everyday household chores, especially bigger tasks.
Raking their yard, getting rid of leaves, or hauling off trash are things you can do outside. Inside, you can replace light bulbs, clean windows, clean the fireplace, or fix a leaky faucet in addition to helping with basic chores. Seniors may feel upset at not being as self-sufficient as they once were, but a kind person lending a hand may help to lessen that frustration and increase holiday cheer.
5) Volunteer at a facility
A large percentage of the elderly choose to live in assisted living or senior care facilities. These are wonderful, important places, but they are often understaffed, especially when it comes to things outside of basic caregiving. Volunteers, particularly during the holidays, are always appreciated by the staff and can do a great job of improving the overall morale of the home. Christmas caroling and delivering Christmas cards to senior living facility residents are easy ways to volunteer your time. Take your kids with you and tour the facility, visiting with multiple residents and bringing smiles to their faces by engaging in conversation and sharing your talents.
Giving the Gift of Your Time
When people think of Christmas, they often think of giving gifts wrapped in pretty paper with a fancy bow; however, the most special gift you can give this holiday season, especially to a senior citizen, is the gift of your time. A person of advanced age has likely acquired most or all of the material possessions he or she desires, but they very much crave community and affection and long to still feel a part of the outside world. Use this guide to volunteer with seniors and help make this holiday season a wonderful one for them!