One in five seniors is socially isolated, increasing their risks for poor physical and mental health. And, many elders living in the community have difficulty with activities of daily living, so just managing day-to-day tasks can be a struggle. While seniors in care communities may have their basic needs met, they may still suffer from loneliness or lack of support.

Additionally, over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure. Even millions who are above the poverty line cannot meet their monthly expenses. Seniors in care facilities may have few resources to purchase personal items or do things outside of what is provided. Certainly, there are many seniors in need for a variety of reasons.

This holiday season, some of us will start to think about helping the elderly. We may worry about our older neighbors. Or, we might think of those who are spending time alone in a nursing home. Of course, helping the elderly should be something we do year-round. However, the holidays may put it at the top of our minds. And because the holidays can be an especially lonely time, many programs focus on helping the elderly at this time of year. Here are some ways you can help.

Helping the Elderly: Local Programs for the Holidays

Silver Santas

EasyLiving has been participating in Silver Santas with Better Living for Seniors for many years. Silver Santas is a grassroots project that provides gifts to isolated and low-income seniors. The seniors are identified through providers such as assisted living communities, senior housing and professional guardians. The professionals working with them submit their names in the fall. Then, gift tags are placed on trees throughout Pinellas County starting on November 1st. Once someone picks up a gift tag, they go shopping for the items on the senior’s list. They then return them to the tree location or alternative drop off spots to be distributed to the seniors.

How can you help?

  • Visit a Silver Santas tree and pick a gift tag. Go shopping and drop off the items by December 6th. The EasyLiving office is one of the gift drop-off locations.
  • Donate new clothing, hygiene products, candy, and small personal items to help fill out the gift bags.
  • Make a monetary donation.
  • Volunteer to help organize and implement the program. 

For the details, visit Silver Santas on the BLS website.

Be a Santa to a Senior

Be a Santa to a Senior aims to help Pinellas County seniors by providing them with clothing, shoes, hygiene products, and personal effects throughout the year. The program specifically focuses on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas. Many elders in nursing homes don’t have any loved ones nearby. This program tries to bring them a little joy by giving them a few gifts and a nice card. The elders don’t want anything fancy. They usually ask for essentials and small comforts like slippers, a blanket or an artificial plant.

Get more information to be a Santa to a senior.

Charities for Helping the Elderly

If you’re thinking of helping the elderly through a donation, here are some top charities that benefit seniors. Along with making donations, you can volunteer with many of these organizations. Some offer the opportunity to volunteer directly with seniors, such as delivering Meals on Wheels. While with others, you could provide administrative help or organizational support. Here are some “adopt an elder” programs that involve helping the elderly with direct sponsorships. This is a useful article to find charities for helping the elderly. It offers tips for staying away from scams and choosing organizations wisely.

Additionally, there are volunteer opportunities such as the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s Telephone Reassurance Program. It provides a daily interaction by linking seniors and homebound adults with a caring person by telephone. The daily call provides a safety link and helps reduce isolation and loneliness.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs uses volunteers in a wide array of programs for helping the elderly. These include the Ombudsman program to advocate for long-term care residents and the SHINE program for insurance help. Other partnerships include Guardian ad Litem and Seniors vs. Crime.

You can also check with your local hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, or non-profit organization. They often need support in the work they do helping the elderly.

Helping the Elderly Close to Home

Of course, there are many opportunities for helping the elderly more informally. This could be just keeping an eye out for your older neighbors. If they don’t have family nearby, there may not be anyone checking to make sure they’re okay regularly. You might offer to pick up items for them. Or, ask if they need help with errands. Your elderly neighbor might be thrilled with an offer to cut his grass or help with some basic outside maintenance.

Sometimes the simple act of bringing the newspaper to the door or saying hello helps a person feel less alone. If it’s appropriate, see if they’d like to go shopping with you or come over for a meal. On the other hand, if they’re not up to it, bring them a plate of food or some holiday cookies.

We can also help older friends and family members by checking in via phone. If you find time gets away from you, set a reminder to call every couple weeks just to say hi. Or, plan a regular time to catch up. The act of listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Related Reading:

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for All Ages

Meaningful Gifts for Caregivers and Seniors

Mental Health & Aging

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