Little People, Big Hearts, Big Impact – Helping the Elderly

Written by: Amy Cahill

What can you do it if an elderly person is lonely and doesn’t have family around to keep them company?

- Buy them a Dalmatian puppy! – Jackson, 5

Some of my fondest memories of growing up involve my Grandma Trudy.  As a child, my brother and I saw her at least once a week.  She was my mom’s go-to babysitter and our first choice as well.  Together we ventured to the library, yard sales, and sometimes even bingo. 

Our relationship with my grandma was good for everyone involved.  My brother and I had a friend who was kind, patient, and fun in different ways than our young friends.  Grandma Trudy liked the fact that she was able to help my mother and enjoyed our youthful optimism and energy.   

But not all elderly people are fortunate enough to be surrounded by family.  Children grow up and move out of town.  Spouses and friends pass away.  Work relationships fade after retirement.  Without the support systems that were available in years past, it is easy to feel lonely.

In addition to loneliness, some seniors also face a closely related problem: isolation.  For many older people, declining physical ability and energy means it is difficult to leave home.  Walking to a coffee shop or driving to a friend’s house is no longer an option.               

Visiting with older people is one of the easiest ways to give back and do good.  All your child needs to do is be himself!  Spending time with seniors can be very beneficial to children by promoting tolerance and teaching them to understand differences.  Also, kids can benefit from the wisdom and patience of older people.  Seniors benefit from spending time with younger people as well.  They get to share their life experiences and enjoy the happiness and energy of young people. 

Here are some family-friendly volunteer ideas:

- As the weather warms up, offer to do yard work or spring cleaning for an elderly neighbor.  Many older people would love to have a smiling, energetic child traipsing around their house or yard. 

 - Use the Eldercare Locator to find a nursing home in your neighborhood and offer to bring your family pet, share a hobby, or simply visit with residents. 

-  For school-aged children, connect with an elderly pen-pal through a program or visit a local senior then continue the relationship via mail.  Your child will enhance his or her reading and writing skills while brightening someone’s day.

-Sign up for a More Than Milk project (family-friendly volunteer projects) in May or June while they work with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly.  Next project is May 24th: Hosting an Elderly Coffee Club. 

- Support Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly as a family and participate in their family visitation program.  Learn about the various visitation programs with varying time commitments.

- Participate in Purple Monkey Playroom’s spring Chocolates & Cards drive for elders in Chicago.  Bring in a box of chocolates to Purple Monkey and receive $2 off one regular priced admission.  Your kids can also make cards to brighten an elder’s day.  Apparently, chocolates are the elderly treat of choice!

Great books about elderly people:

Lots of Grandparents by Shelley Rotner         

Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM