Show our elders you care: Volunteer at a home
For some of us, the holidays are a time when our families and friends gather and celebrate our love and community. For this reason, it can be an especially isolating and depressing time for folks living in residential care facilities, some of whom are “elder orphans” (senior citizens with no living or nearby family or friends). In fact, some studies show that approximately 60% of elders dwelling in assisted living facilities do not have regular visitors—some without even one per year. Without regular outside visitors, it’s easy for seniors to fall into depression (and puts them at greater risk of neglect and/or abuse). However, you can bring some love and joy into their lives by simply showing up. There are tons of volunteer opportunities in elderly homes—from reading aloud to playing games, from “wheelchair dancing” (wheeling residents around to music), to making art. Today’s #DailyRevolution is to find a volunteer opportunity in an elderly home in your area and sign up.
When our elders are placed in nursing homes, they are clothed and fed, but often their other needs—like love and connection through attention, conversation, and touch—are not met. We all need comfort and love along with a sense of value, purpose, and belonging, and people showing they care for and are interested in us can satisfy these needs.
It’s a great irony and disservice to all generations that our culture at large treats elders as if they have little worth, given how they are treasure troves of wisdom through lived experience, and many spent their lives caring for others. People who lived through the 20th century witnessed some of the most drastic periods of change, and conversing with those who can recall their experiences opens a window into the past. Those who suffer from dementia often cannot remember much of their lives, but they are still very much alive in the present. Showing a person anywhere along this spectrum that you would like to spend time with and listen to them can bring light into an otherwise dark and dreary world, sometimes increasing their brain activity and usually uplifting them even after you’ve departed.
Some homes partner with organizations like New York Cares, which facilitates thousands of opportunities throughout the city, while other homes function independently. If you’re outside of NYC, check out Create the Good, VolunteerMatch, or Idealist, or use your search engine to find assisted living facilities in your area and explore their websites directly. Be aware that some volunteer work requires a short orientation after registration, so hop to it so you can get to visiting with our elders this holiday season (and beyond)!