We can all feel a bit listless as the winter draws in. Cold rainy weather and short days can leave us feeling a little glum, and when looking for sources of comfort it can be easy to overlook how incredibly rewarding the act of supporting older people around us can be.
In fact, practising kindness, from small gestures within your community to giving in a big way by volunteering or sharing your space with those in need, can deliver huge benefits not only for those you help but for your own mental well-being too. The act of giving can be connected to reducing stress, boosting immunity, combating depression and increasing self esteem, not to mention that actively engaging with helping others can be fantastically stimulating – creating opportunities to learn about the people we meet and more about ourselves.
Reflect On The Elderly Within Your Community
Older members of our community are often the most in need of some extra support; perhaps living alone they may struggle with social isolation. Having lived a full and independent life, they may find it difficult to reach out for help. Take a moment to consider if there might be elderly people around you who would benefit from a little kindness. Those who have trouble with mobility, may have suffered bereavement, or are experiencing illness can go unnoticed as the usual hustle and bustle goes on around them. But you can break this pattern by just being brave and striking up a conversation! We all benefit from connection, even though it can seem intimidating. Practising connecting with others is a great step towards a more rewarding experience. Do they live alone? Do they have family or friends for support? The simple act of offering to help with grocery shopping, lifting something heavy, fixing the television, giving a lift to the doctors, picking up a prescription, or even just having a chat can make a bigger difference to someone’s day that you might imagine. Of course they don’t need to welcome your help, and there is no need to rush someone if they need some time to think about your offer, but your little act of giving might just bring a huge reward for you both.
Look Out For The Wellbeing Of Vulnerable Older People
Those who don’t have a strong support network in place can be very vulnerable to a decline in health or the onset of illness. Check in with those around you and look out for signs of seasonal flu or indications that an individual may not be managing to look after themselves properly. If you notice that an older member of your community hasn’t left the house for some time, why not knock on the door with some home-made soup and check they are alright. If you see signs that someone might be struggling to maintain their home or tend to their appearance as they usually would it might well be a warning sign that they need some extra support. Ask if they have loved ones to get in touch with or connect them with local volunteer programs and social support groups. Sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge to let us know it’s OK to accept a helping hand, and that others are around who want to be a part of that support system.
Commit To Something Bigger – Make Giving A Part Of Your Life
There are a host of fantastic organisations that can make it easy for you to offer your time and energy, and connect you with those who need it most.
Live At Home is a wonderful charity project that coordinates a great range of activities such as their befriending scheme that connects older people with volunteers who are perfectly matched by their interests and personality to share time and create friendships. They offer social events and lunch clubs, geared towards providing nutritious meals in fun social settings, and simple support services such as telephone check-ins for those living alone and help with transport for those unable to get around as they used to.
The Royal Voluntary Scheme offers their Good Neighbours program which seeks volunteers to spend an hour or so a week with those who are considered high risk within the local community. They work with local medical professionals to identify elderly people whose wellness could be increased through community support, facilitating practical help and life enhancing opportunities like Tai Chi classes, IT training and tea dances!
If you want to make a big difference to others but don’t feel like you’ve got much to give Homeshare UK could be the answer you’ve been looking for. The Home share concept is brilliantly simple. It connects older people who could use some company or support and have a spare bedroom with those who want to give something back to their community. The idea is that you benefit from affordable accommodation and good company while allowing an older person to retain their independence and receive a little help. All matches are carefully selected and the scheme has demonstrated great success.
There are many, many more charity projects and community schemes to get involved with. Explore your local area to see what is possible and get in touch. You won’t regret it and may learn great lessons. The older people around us have so much wisdom and experience to share when we simply take the time to connect with them.
“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your own path.” – Nichiren Daishonin
I love the mental images that this quote invokes and the clarity of this metaphor; that we have to power to spread comfort to others through choosing to practice kindness, and this choice will elevate us too. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see this sentiment catch on as we all contribute to spreading a bit of positivity in our own way?