When we talk about elderly folks and volunteer work, we’re likely referring to work performed by volunteers for or with the elderly—visits to assisted living facilities to bring puppies or create art projects. Amazing programs, certainly, but ones that don’t address a greater need within the elderly community—that of interaction outside their living situation, as well as the continued need for a sense of community through giving back.
Chances are, the elderly person in your life has at some point suffered from a feeling of low self-worth. As we age, we’re often forced to give ourselves over to the care of others and, in doing so, lose much of the independence we’ve worked for. Volunteer work helps create a sense of personal value and can also provide a valuable bonding experience for you and your aging friend or relative. For caregivers working with dementia patients, shared volunteer work can be a great form of memory care.
Animals have long been shown to lift spirits and extend the longevity and quality of life. A volunteer visit to an animal shelter is a great way to involve the whole family in volunteer work. For folks with mobility issues, there are many opportunities. Cats and small dogs often don’t leave the shelter and need attention within the confines of a room. Petting cats is easy for children and grandparents and helps shelters (which are experiencing massive overcrowding) immensely.
Many cities have programs that pair children without living grandparents up with elderly people who desire to make a difference in their communities. These programs vary, but accommodate a great variety of individuals with physical disabilities and memory loss. While the elderly person gets mental stimulation and positive interaction, the young person forms a lasting relationship with someone so very different from themselves—a win/win for everyone!
Many cities have special programs in place around the holidays that work to gather and dispense gifts or food for less fortunate families. This type of volunteer work is a great fit for anyone, as tasks and hours are flexible. Duties might include filling stockings, organizing paperwork, or delivering gifts. This particular opportunity can be very rewarding for anyone who enjoys the holidays and takes special pleasure from hands-on experiences with people.
Remember, any experience that offers a chance to vary the norm can be beneficial for seniors. In addition, volunteer situations provide a setting in which bonding occurs, leading to more positive personal relationships and overall health.
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