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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on December 17th, 2015

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This Holiday Season - Give the Gift of Volunteering

Aging & Caregiving

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Are you right in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle? If so, you’re not alone. For most people, this time of year brings with it a frantic period of shopping, cooking, and reveling with friends and family members. Unfortunately, the holidays are not necessarily happy days for everyone. In particular, older adults may suffer from feelings of sadness and isolation at this time of year. One way to spread holiday cheer? Volunteering with seniors.

Why Volunteer?

While volunteering is a valuable practice throughout the year, the holidays are a terrific time to start making a difference. Why? Because while the season may be joyous for you, it may highlight feelings of loss for older adults. Whether grieving the loss of a loved one or simply looking back to happier times, aging seniors can easily fall victim to the “holiday blues.” However, you can help brighten their days through the simple act of volunteering.

Getting Started

There are many ways to make a difference in the life of an aging adult this holiday season. Senior centers, assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities are a great place to focus your efforts. Contact a local community and ask about opportunities for volunteers. Opportunities may include anything from helping with an event to simply sharing time and conversation with someone in need of a listening ear. Even stopping by with a tray of homemade cookies or handmade cards can bring smiles. Don’t underestimate the difference an hour or two out of your day can make for an isolated individual. If the community requires volunteers to complete a specific registration process or asks volunteers to commit to a set amount of hours, consider making it your New Year’s resolution to sign up!

If volunteering at a senior living community is not the right option for you, think about some of the individuals in your own sphere of influence. More likely than not, there’s an older adult who lives on your street or in your own neighborhood who could use a helping hand. Whether you volunteer to shovel his walkway or help her with her grocery shopping, you’ll be providing invaluable companionship while helping someone in need.

When thinking of ways to volunteer, be sure to consider your own skills and talents. For example, if you’re technologically savvy, offer to help an older loved one or neighbor set up or use an email account. Troubleshooting a technology problem, such as recovering a lost television signal, setting a digital clock, or making sense of a new gadget can also be a great help to an aging adult who may need a bit of assistance. Volunteering to be a “guru” of sorts can be a different but equally vital way to help seniors stay connected.

If you have kids or pets, meanwhile, consider enlisting them in your efforts -- both have morale-boosting potential for seniors. While pets can naturally help us relax and bring us joy, intergenerational relationships can also bring great meaning into our lives. Not to mention there’s no better time to teach little ones about the importance of loving others and giving generously - of your time, energy, and resources.

While you may feel like you don't have enough time to get through your own holiday to-do list without adding more to it, the rewards of volunteering make it well worth the extra effort. You’ll not only make an impact on the lives of older adults in your community, but you’ll also walk away with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that can’t be found under any tree.

Key Takeaways

  • Many aging adults suffer from sadness and isolation during the holiday season.
  • In addition to help with daily or routine tasks, seniors can also benefit from basic companionship.
  • While your local senior center or senior living community is a great starting point for finding volunteer opportunities with older adults, you can give a helping hand right in your own.

5 ways to help holiday ebook

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.