There are lots of ways you can do your bit to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. The person you’re helping will reap health benefits, and you’ll find you will as well.
Volunteering for an organization that supports older people is a key way of helping a lonely or socially isolated older person. But a simple friendly chat or phone call can make all the difference, too.
Evidence suggests giving your time in this way could be as valuable to you as the person you support. It’s likely to boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose. And helping others takes your mind off your own problems for a while.
Start a conversation
It’s not always easy to know who or how to help. A good start is simply to stop and talk to an elderly neighbor if you pass them on the street. You could ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters or dog-walking, or offer to accompany them to various activities or doctors’ and hospital appointments.
Get to know your neighbors
Seize the opportunity to introduce yourself to an elderly neighbor when you see them. Ask if you can help in any way. Do you know an older person who lives alone, rarely leaves the house, has recently suffered a bereavement, is in poor health, disabled, has sight or hearing loss, or doesn’t seem to have close family living nearby? They’re the ones who are most likely to appreciate this type of contact.
Share a meal
Older people often need a hand cooking for themselves, so why not take round an extra plate of hot home-cooked food, or a frozen portion they can heat up or microwave. As well as being practical, it’s a nice way to share your time with a neighbor.
The Casserole Club is a project that connects people who like to cook and are happy to share an extra portion of a delicious home-cooked meal with older neighbours living close by who could really benefit from a hot, cooked meal.
Share your time
Volunteer for organization that support older people. These often offer “befriending” schemes for isolated elderly people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact as a telephone “buddy”, visitor or driver, or hosting social events for groups.
Your contribution could be as simple as a weekly telephone call to an isolated older person, or extend to regular home visits for a chat and to help with shopping and so on, driving an elderly person to a social event, or even hosting coffee mornings for groups of elderly people.