Many Ways To Help Seniors During Holidays

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a special holiday “Senior Life Matters” article. The regular “Senior Life Matters” article will appear in Monday’s edition.

Q: I take care of an older neighbor. I don’t actually provide care for them; I help them. Do you have any ideas on what to get them for the holidays? I just can’t seem to think of anything they need.

A: Thank you for all that you do. Our older neighbors, family and friends rely on those that help them to make their life better. Sometimes this can feel like a real burden. I think it is a blessing. I find older people the most interesting and enjoyable people to spend time with. I know that many older people are isolated and may not have many visitors. Others are active and don’t “need” a whole lot. When you have been around 60 or 70 years, you probably don’t have a wish list or presents that you need. We often are at that point of getting rid of stuff.

One of the first things is to give a gift of time. Give this gift in the form of coupons redeemable for things like trips to the grocery store, doctor appointments or a beauty salon. Time can also be set aside to visit or talk. Make a date once a month to do whatever they choose. This time of year it could be helping to decorate their home, maybe next month take down the decorations, and then next month go grocery shopping.

We often want to give something tangible that lasts, but the time we give is often much more valuable. There are things they may need, maybe a gift card for flowers in the spring, grocery store or again the beauty salon. That gift card can then be followed up with “I will take you to …”

If money is tight for you, and buying something would be hard, the gift of time is much easier to do. There are so many things that could be helpful; shoveling, gardening, rototilling, planting, sorting stuff, driving, talking, cleaning windows, the list is endless. All of these things are valuable, but don’t cost you as much and mean a lot to the person who receives them.

Other ideas: Cooking dinner one night a month and bringing it to them. A monthly trip to their favorite restaurant. A subscription to The Post-Journal, or another newspaper or magazine they enjoy.

A couple of years ago my brother got my mother a movie club membership. That has been something she has enjoyed a lot and still does.

Sometimes getting them a flower arrangement for their table or a plant that lasts all year long is the perfect idea. Bringing your children along or a pet to visit would add fun to the visit. Remember that not everyone loves animals or children, so be sure to first ask permission to bring them along.

Maybe bringing a group to their house to carol or do yard work. These are activities that your whole family could be a part of.

I think it is important to teach families to give to others. It doesn’t have to be about money. Time is much more valuable. We all feel the pressure to do more, get more, spend more. Time spent with an older person is a way to slow down, take a breath and remember to listen, watch and learn. Who knows, maybe that older person could teach you something, making it a double benefit for them and for you.

You spend time with them, and they teach you to knit, crochet, cane chairs, or play an instrument. Maybe they can’t see to read, so you read to them, you read something you wouldn’t normally read, and you both benefit.

The holidays are not about spending money to show you care. The holidays are about expressing your love, appreciation and respect for those in your life. Giving time is a wonderful way to do that.

Again, thank you to all of you out there who are helping older people to live a better life. I know there are many of you out there.