We are living in the age of loneliness. Though humans are nominally more connected than ever, when the click of a button can have you in counsel with your closest friend and you can share a video call in different time zones with your family, the reality is quite different. Time and time again, the news reports on a loneliness crisis, an epidemic which seemingly is taking no prisoners. And oftentimes it’s those with the least years and peers left who feel the most isolated. There are things you can, and should, do to give back. We’ve teamed up with Westgate Healthcare, owners of Riverdale which is one of a few care homes in Braintree, to give you just a few of them; our 5 IDEAL volunteering ideas to help the elderly this spring.
BECOME A BEFRIENDER
Though many would spontaneously help a member of the older generation cross the road or carry their shopping, as a nation we can go so much further in our altruistic assistance of those in need. The U.K’s leading charity for the elderly, Age UK, have set up their flagship Befriendersprogram, which pairs up volunteers with older members of the community, in the name of companionship. Shockingly, nearly half of all over 75s live alone, and the commitment here is simple; to call to offer conversation and support, and to drop by and visit. Though the scheme is charitable in name, most volunteers find great pleasure and gain a real sense of meaning through participation. There really is no reason not to.
LEND A HAND
Whether it’s an offer to an elderly member of the community you know, or if it’s part of a volunteering scheme which connects strangers, an extra pair of hands lent can mean so much more than the physical help given. This can be as simple an act as picking up the shopping each week, collecting medicine and making calls to remind your friend to take it, all the way through to cooking a lovely, home cooked meal from time to time; something so many over 75s miss out on when living in isolation. Of course, it’s not the assistance which matters most (though of course it’s also useful) but rather the sense of care, trust and friendship received by members of the elderly community which is so valuable when loneliness sets in.
CAMPAIGN, PETITION & MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
You may well have read about the social care crisis, with news earlier this year that 50’000 of England’s elderly have died waiting for a social care package. Without doubt, drastic government austerity cuts are to blame. What makes this even more disgraceful is that while the current leadership continue to take away funding from those who need it most with one hand, they use the other to push the public to do more and more volunteer work, to make up for services the government should be providing. While this certainly doesn’t mean you should withhold your offer of help to the community, it’s equally important that you make your voice heard, with letters to your M.P, signing petitions (such as this one for free T.V for the elderly) and campaigning for an end to this government’s risible treatment of those less fortunate in society. The elderly are often one of the least listened to groups; so raise your voice twice as loudly to make up for it.
TEACH A NEW SKILL
A wonderful way to help the elderly find new meaning in life and combat loneliness is by helping them learn a new skill. It can be a genuinely liberating feeling in old age to suddenly have some new tools in the armoury and new ways of contacting family members, or perhaps even impressing new friends. Perhaps the simplest skill you could teach is how to use a computer and the internet. We’re not talking mastering Excel spreadsheets or playing Fortnite, but rather the basics, like accessing the news or firing up FaceTime to enable a delightful video chat with the grandchildren. Lovely stuff.
BE AWARE OF SEASONAL ILLNESSES
With spring comes a change in the season, temperature, clocks and routine which can sometimes bring about a whole new set of health risks to the elderly. Particularly prevalent are the reemergence of allergies related to pollen, dehydration due to temperatures creeping up and the possibility of spring flu. It’s important then to be that little more vigilant than usual and wise to these changes in the air and weather when considering the health of elderly loved ones and companions.