You know that rich life experiences are indispensable. They’ve helped makeup everything you are today. So imagine how many valuable stories, lessons and experiences your elders can share with you. When you spend time volunteering with older people, you’ll benefit just as much as they do—and you can learn a lot too!
We’ve compiled some ideas for different ways to lend a hand, a listening ear or your skills to older persons—from reminiscing to making new memories. But remember, simply giving your time and conversation can sometimes mean the most.
Visit an assisted living facility
One of the most meaningful things you can do for someone in an assisted living facility is share some quality time together. Whether you’re going to see a neighbour, loved one or new friend, make the most of your visit by planning ahead. Call ahead to arrange a time to drop by or schedule regular visits that your friend can look forward to. Bring along a board game or cards, a care package, a video or a home-baked treat.
Even if your days fill up quickly, just a quick hello can brighten someone’s day.
Reach out locally
Chances are there are older people in your own neighbourhood who could use your help.
Some seniors’ health prevents them from getting out and socialising. Keep them from feeling isolated by going for a visit, bringing over a meal to share or renting their favourite movie for you to watch together.
Offer to run errands for those seniors who can no longer drive. Make it a weekly ritual, and let them know they can call upon you when needed. You can also bring them along as you ride around town, so they can get out of the house and visit with you at the same time.
It doesn’t take a skilled handyperson to do many around-the-house chores. Offer to rake leaves in autumn, mow the lawns trim a hedge, and fix little things around the home.
Be a companion
If you don’t have a parent or grandparent of your own that needs some extra caring for, there are plenty of older people out there who could use some company!
Whether you’re at a nursing home or a neighbour’s, or a loved one’s home, ask yourself what you can learn from your older friend—many of their experiences may surprise you! While they’ve likely compiled stories over the years, it can often be challenging to know just what to ask to kick-start a conversation. So here are some ways to help get them reminiscing—and the good stories flowing.
Discover their passion: Does your friend love to cook? Ask them to share a favourite family recipe. Do they love to sing or draw? Get them to show you. Find what they’re passionate about, and chances are, they’ll welcome the opportunity to chat about it (and maybe even get creative!)
Discover their skills: If you don’t already know the kind of career your friend had, find out! Ask questions about their biggest lessons or favourite moments. Don’t forget to ask them about their skills and hobbies outside the job—sewing, woodworking, and writing. Request that they teach you a thing or two.
Log the memories: Bring along a photo album, scrapbook or journal on your next visit, and encourage your friend to sit and compile their memories with you. Use narrative, photos, captions, doodles and more. You’ll be turning their oral stories into a documented history book in no time!
Make some artwork: Turn select pages of your memory book into wall art for their room. Simply photocopy the best carriers with photos and captions, then hang them up so your friend can continuously recall good times. Plus, colourful pages and pictures are sure to brighten up any room.
Social connections are vital to people’s well-being, and governments worldwide are investing in age-friendly initiatives. Age-friendly communities promote quality of life by supporting the social inclusion of older people. It’s easier to stay engaged and participate in a community if transportation is accessible, volunteer opportunities are available, and there are places where seniors can safely walk and interact.
Consider the type of community you want to grow old in. Does it provide opportunities for social interaction? Can you walk to shops and services? Many of the age-friendly initiatives completed in our communities have not only benefitted older adults but have also made these communities more attractive for all residents. When older people are engaged and connected to their communities, everyone benefits
If you would like to spend some time with some older people in your community, check out the two following opportunities we have for you to spend time with older people in our community.
Be the one who makes a difference.