The holidays are for family and friends, but it’s also the season of giving.
During this time, though, many of the elderly within our communities are left without friends and family to lean on, or gifts to unwrap. To combat this and spread holiday cheer, organizations and grassroots efforts are popping up around the country to give back to the elderly in need during the holidays.
Community and Commercial Organizations Come Together to Help
Santa for Seniors, a program run by a handful of Walgreens stores, is helping local seniors get the help they need by stringing their wish-lists up on trees in the stores. Here, WNCT reports seniors ask for necessities like socks, gift cards, and even groceries.
Rich Zeck, the executive director of the North Carolina Pit County Council on Aging says the seniors requesting gifts are often going through tough times emotionally and financially. “During Christmas time, that’s a time where many of them struggle,” Zeck explained. “So partnering with Walgreens to do the Christmas tree is a great opportunity for us to directly connect with people who may not have such a merry Christmas.”
There’s also the Home Instead Senior Care’s program, Be a Santa to a Senior, which they run at their facilities throughout the country. By partnering up with local businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations, the company identifies seniors who might be in need and gets them gifts.
More Than Presents – Companionship is Key
The program has been running since 2003, and the assisted living facility says in that time they’ve provided 1.2 million presents to seniors who might have otherwise gone without during the holidays. “Be a Santa to a Senior provides a much-needed boost for seniors who may be isolated, not just through gifts, but through interaction and companionship,” Tracy Baugh of the Lubbock, Texas Home Instead Senior Care office told KCBD. “We’re so grateful to have a community that comes together to show our local seniors they are not alone during the holidays.”
In West Virginia, The Sundale Nursing Home runs the “Presents for Patients” program. “We go and ask the residents, ‘What would you like Santa Claus to bring you?’ And they’ll give us a couple things.” But Paula Morgan, activities director at Sundale nursing home, goes on to explain the best gift the patients receive is a visit. “Oh, they love visits. They do. That one-on-one with them — they really enjoy that. They need it.”
How to Get Involved
If you’re looking for ways to give back to your community during the holidays, reaching out to the elderly is a great place to start. One in five elderly adults are isolated due to the fact that they don’t drive, nearly half of elderly women live alone, and almost 30 percent of those in assisted living facilities are doing so without partners.
To reach this often lonely community in need, the first thing you should do is contact a local nursing home or retirement facility and see if they have any programs in place that you can donate to.
But these programs often target the men and women within the facilities. So in order to reach others within the community who could also use some holiday cheer, you should contact your local Area of the Aging, Red Hats, food pantries, or religious institutions. These organizations often have, or know of, elderly community members who could use a helping hand during the holidays.
Do you know any helpful, local organizations that give back to the elderly during the holidays? Let us know about them in the comments below!