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Thank you to Mormon.org for partnering with me on this post. This post is part of #LightTheWorld, Day 9 to “Visit the Lonely”.
When I was in college, I had the amazing opportunity to work as a receptionist at a retirement home. I LOVED it. I grew up in a neighborhood with many older couples who became extra sets of grandparents. They watched me grow up and I could always count on them to provide me with a confidence boost and extra doses of love. It’s one of the reasons I’d beg my parents not to move, even though there weren’t many youth in our area.
So when I was offered a job at this retirement home, I jumped at the chance. I would have stayed there longer too had I not had other responsibilities and opportunities present themselves after working there about 2 years.
Because it was a retirement home, the residents had to be mostly independent. Many had caregivers and nurses that would come in and help them. And some would come and go as they wished, as independent as they had been when living in their home. I got to know them very well. My job included delivering meals to them when they were too sick to come down, helping them with groceries, and helping with activities. I also met many of their families, including children, grandchildren, and even friends. After a few months, they had become another extension of my family and I loved them.
At times, it was heartbreaking though. We had some residents who didn’t have any family or who had family that lived too far away to visit often. After dinner, they would often come down and talk to me because they had no one else. I saw many of them cry on occasion when they found out their family wasn’t going to come and visit.
The holidays were the worst for this. Even when some of them played it off like it was no big deal, I could see how hard it was for them to stay back and eat their Thanksgiving or Christmas meals alone or with the few remaining residents who were there. My job required that I work a shift on holidays, and I remember feeling some gratitude that I could be there to offer some company for them.
Over the years, I’ve felt a great deal of compassion for the elderly. And not just because of my job in college or relationships with the elderly growing up. I found myself constantly worrying about my grandpa after my grandma passed away. It was incredibly hard on him to lose her and for the 12 years he lived after her passing, I was constantly praying for him and that someone would be there when he needed help.
I’ve heard many ask about how they can help the elderly. Sometimes, when we sit down and decide to help someone, it can be overwhelming. Exactly what do they need? Where do you start?
The answer is to start with even just small acts of kindness. The Lord Jesus Christ performed great miracles but He also did small things along the way. And, as the quote says, “Even the smallest light shines bright in the darkness”.
For someone who is lonely, who can’t walk or perform what once was normal to them, you can perform small acts that will impact them in ways you will never know. And here’s some ideas for you!
FIRST, PLAN SHORT VISITS
For someone who is lonley, just a short, 5-minute visit can be the world. You can easily call them to set it up or just talk to them on the phone. I remember dropping by to visit my Grandpa when I was in college. Even though I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with him, I know that it helped both of us fill a void. And it created a memory.
SECOND, CREATE A FRUIT BASKET
We did this in our primary this year for an activity and it was the perfect thing to do! We asked the kids to each bring a fruit to contribute to their basket. Then, they wrote or drew cards, put the fruit in a basket (we had one basket per primary class), wrapped it up with cellophane and ribbon, and delivered it to some elderly neighbors. It was such a treat for all involved!
THIRD, WRITE NOTES
As a family, sit down and write notes to the elderly you are visiting. If you know them personally, this will be easier to do, but you can still write inspirataional messages or a simple “Merry Christmas!”. This is a fun activty for kids to do because they can draw pictures.
FOURTH, RUN ERRANDS FOR THEM
Sometimes even the most independent can have hard days and need a little help. If you are already running to the grocery store, call and ask if they need anything. I did this a few times for my Grandpa in college when his knees were bothering him and I know he appreciated having a stocked kitchen. I was always happy when I left knowing that he had fresh food to each for meals.
FIFTH, ASK TO DO CHORES THAT MAY BE HARD FOR THEM
This is something special that we did for my Grandpa as a family. My cousins did it too! For a few years, we would schedule times, especially in the summer, when we could come over and help with chores for Grandpa. We would weed, mow the lawn, go through piles of old things that needed to be donated and thrown away, mopped, vacuumed, etc. Some days, he had more elaborate chores for us and other days we would be done in under an hour. My favorite part about doing this was getting to spend some time with him, listening to his favorite music and hearing stories. The elderly have so much wisdom and these times are precious!
SIXTH, PERFORM SOME TALENTS FOR THEM
When I married into my husband’s family, it was a little crazy at first during the holidays. Growing up, I didn’t do much performing for family get togethers because no one was especially musical (I played the piano but never performed for my family). In their family, music is everything and even family dinners could turn into mini talent shows. This usually happened at the prompting of Oma, my husband’s grandmother. She passed away last year at 98 and one of her favorite things was getting to listen to her posterity perform their musical talents. It was a highlight and it didn’t matter if you were a maestro or just starting out. She loved every second of it!
At the retirment home, the residents looked forward to nights when people in the community came to perform for them. We had young children who would come and play through some of their repertoire and community and school choirs. We would always put signs out to let them know when performances were scheduled and I always knew we’d have a packed house because the residents loved it so much.
This year, we created these fun boxes of treats to deliver. They can be filled with cookies, candy, or small gifts (just don’t make them heavy). Do keep in mind that many elderly have special diets and may need to have sugar-free treats. Just check before you visit.
We used this great printable kit that we used for our deliveries this year that were cute and easy! It’s a fun Gingerbread Kit from Maria at Designed By Maria. The Gingerbread houses make the perfect boxes for delivering treats, whether sugar-free or sugar-loaded (make sure to check before you visit!).
They were so easy to make. I also had my kids color some of the provided blank Gingerbread men and we made a fun garland to drop off with our goodies and small Christmas tree. Small trees are easy to find this year and who doesn’t love seeing handmade drawings from kids in their living room?
You can find other great ideas to Light The World this Christmas at The Red Headed Hostess.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be big or take up too much time. All you need to do is let them know that you are thinking of them and that they aren’t alone. Be the answer to their prayers!