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You Are Invited ...
My love and concern for senior citizens is constantly reinforced by what I see and do all week at my job as an Adult Protective Service Investigator. Sometimes many of the calls I get all week are similar - like there’s been an agreement amongst the complainants to follow a theme. A recent week’s theme would have been “loneliness”. Many seniors have no healthy, verbal friends anymore, and their family members are always busy. I found myself wishing that I could get all of the lonely callers together so that they could offer support to one another. Of course, that wasn’t possible.
What I can do is to share information. The good news is that I meet and speak to lots of seniors that have an active, positive social life, though they rarely leave their home. They are usually happy, and rarely lonely. How do they achieve that? They plan ahead, like this:
1. Invite folks over.
Sounds obvious, right? But inviting people over can be very challenging to an elderly person. There is often shame attached to having guests, because the condition of the elderly person’s home isn’t what they would want. Sometimes there is a specific problem. A person that uses Depends might be afraid that there is a urine odor in the home. Or someone that can no longer lift the vacuum cleaner might be embarrassed that the rugs don’t look clean. Sometimes the loneliest person is married, and doesn’t feel comfortable with guests because their spouse has developed an aversion to having people over. Pets might not do well with guests. I hear lots of reasons why guests can’t come over.
What I have found is this - when the problem is defined, help for the problem can be found. It might mean taking a risk, and it might mean that the elderly person has to explain their situation, swallow their pride and be uncomfortable and vulnerable. But the reward will be worth it. In other words, ask for help. Call family, friends, neighbors, churches, or social service agencies. Explain that you need help in your home.
Okay, you’ve gotten the help you need and your home is ready for guests. What next?
Celebrate the month’s holiday in some way, with others. In April, have a potluck with food that will be good to eat on a rainy day. In May, have folks over to swap flower bulbs and cuttings. Host an Easter egg hunt in your backyard, if you have one. Invite everyone over with a contribution to put into a pot for “everything” soup. You can supply the bread and butter.
Host a weekly movie night with neighbors. They can come over, flop on the floor and watch a movie and visit. You provide popcorn, they provide drinks or their favorite snack. They can be invited to bring a great movie if there’s one they’d love to share. If you like children, make sure the movies are appropriate for them. You could have a cookie baking night. Game night. Story-telling night. A drawing or music night. Act out plays or skits together. Think of fun ways to get to know the kids in the area, and bond with your neighbors.
You could coordinate, with the help of a friend or neighbor, a picnic in a local park, or a group visit to a public garden. The possibilities are endless. Even cleaning out your clutter can be fun with help - when several neighbors have a garage sale, it becomes an event rather than a chore. Sit down with a trusted person, and create a list of things that will be fun to try. Repeat the events that are the most fun, and easiest to do. Inviting folks over is a simple way to breathe new life into your own life. Let me know how this works for you!
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