All of us at one point begin to feel the effects of aging. We are headed for a huge group. Currently, the fastest growing age group is:
85 years old and older
Can we see a show of hands for the Baby Boomers?
Every 7.5 seconds
A Baby Boomer turns 60 years old.
1 in 5
By 2030, there will be over 72 million people 65 or older: 20% of the population.
Nearly a quarter of people 75 years old and older live in nursing homes (full care, live-in facilities).
Some of the societal phenomena which have changed the aging landscape are: divorce, mobility and fewer children. With the rise of divorce and the change in family dynamics, especially the two-income household, there are fewer children born than in earlier generations. Some of the elderly have already buried their children.
With commuting and job relocations, more children are moving further away from their aging parents. Even siblings are living further from one another. This translates to a lack of immediate familial support for the aging population.
Make A Difference
You can make a difference in the life of an elderly person today, tomorrow, everyday.
1. Be kind.
When you see an elderly person today, do something.
- Smile. Wave. Say, “Good morning!” or “Hello!”
- Open a door.
- Yield the right of way.
- Stand up and offer your seat.
- Help carry something.
- Find something in a store.
Call a care facility in your area. Choose a nursing home, assisted care facility, independent living center or a long term care facility. When they answer “yes” (They will always need volunteers.), make a date.
3. Bring reinforcements.
Ask if the facility allows children and pets. Older people are overjoyed to see children. Children are drawn to grandparental units. Consider letting your child adopt a grandparent. Step back and enjoy the conversation which springs up between them.
Have you thought about bringing your grandchild? Grandparents are no longer relegated to the senior generations. Many people are grandparents in their late thirties and early forties. Take your grandchild to meet more grandparents.
Pets brighten our lives. Most facilities do not allow live-in pets because the residents cannot provide the care necessary for the animals. Many centers allow visiting pets who have shot records. The majority of residents miss having the companionship of a pet who can nuzzle, purr or fetch.
Make it a outing for the whole family. Get together your colleagues or teammates for the field trip. Throw together a live (comedy, musical, poetic reading) performance between you and your friends.
5. Bring goodies.
Most centers deny requests to bring in food because of diet restrictions for health reasons. What are not restricted?
- Blankets and clothing
- Cards (greeting and playing)
6. Find a hobby.
Facilities need volunteers to help replace the deadening television times for residents. They may ask you to play board games, cards or bingo; do craft projects; read; sing; play musical instruments; teach classes; or exercise. They may ask you to come and just be friendly and kind.
7. Ask questions.
Seniors are living longer than ever before. They are more full of life than in generations past. (Ever hear 60 is the new 40?) They have more disposable income. They have had more education than some of the generations following them. These are the people who were the generation which brought about some of the modern conveniences you take for granted into being.
Ask them about their lives. What was it like growing up in your hometown? Where have you lived? What was your favorite job? Do you still have the same hobbies? What change did you never imagine seeing in your lifetime?
Keep your mouth closed and exercise both ears.
Have a good time. Many elderly people have very little socialization. They only have the aides in their centers and a choice few other residents with whom to socialize. Brighten the day of someone who has given to the society so you could have the things you do now. Learn something. Be kind. Enjoy yourself. Your new friend will, too.
In another 25 years, there will be 18 million more seniors than there are today. You may be one of them. Consider what you would feel if you were in the shoes of a senior in a long term care facility today. Go and be the kind of person you would want to visit you.
Teach your children and grandchildren the valuable assets the eldest generations offer to them.
Can you Make A Difference in the life of an elderly person? Would you consider interviewing an elderly person and writing about them? When was the last time you sat down with someone at least 25 years older than you? Are you already part of the senior generation?
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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