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How to Help the Seniors in your Life

Updated on January 19, 2013

Dogs and Cats can be Wonderful Therapy

A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics indicates that seniors living on their own who have pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those who don’t.
A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics indicates that seniors living on their own who have pets tend to have better physical health and mental well-being than those who don’t. | Source

Making the Transition Easier

Whether it is a parent, neighbor or a complete stranger at the grocery store struggling with a new more "efficient" DIY check out system, the fact remains that adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. By lending a hand once in awhile, one not only educates themselves on the pleasures and pitfalls of aging, an act of kindness brings joy to everyone involved, making that dreaded transition a little easier. May your cup of karma runneth-over, as feeling good never gets old!

As people become less active and less engaged in a productive lifestyle they tend to focus on relatively minor things, simply because there is nothing else to more important to do. If you think about it, under the circumstances a negative frame of mind is not really that surprising. When you consider a busy, vital individual, contributing to society on a daily basis who then suddenly finds themselves alone much of the time, perhaps not able to participate in some of the activities that they once enjoyed, the death of many in their peer group and then feeling like they are becoming a burden on loved ones, the same people that they once cared for. This is a major role reversal, and a huge adjustment for anyone to adjust to.

Like most things in life, some personalities handle this transition better than others. I cared for both of my Grandmas in their later years. One seemed to handle the aging process much better, I suspect that's because she remained active as long as possible and once she retired she went out of her way to do things for others, which made her feel needed and more plugged in socially. She did experience bouts of depression however and feelings of worthlessness initially when she stopped driving. I remember talking with her about it, and this did seem to help her to put it into perspective. If one is in touch with changes that are taking place in their life and are able to verbalize how it feels to gradually lose the independence and control that we sometimes take for granted, the change is easier to accept and not so terrifying.


My other Grandma did not handle things nearly so well and shut herself off from most of the activities that she used to enjoy. She viewed herself as an aging victim of a cruel world and found fault with every one and every suggestion that friends and family made to try and preserve her quality of life. As a result, she spent more time alone, isolated and not very happy. She was always rather difficult and when she became older and physically limited her outlook on life became even worse.

So, although I don't think there is really a canned "solution" that works for everyone, I do think there are a few things that greatly improve the inevitable process of aging.

  • Encourage as much activity as possible. Some may not be very receptive to the idea, so I know this may not always be easy but perhaps if one is made to feel like their involvement would really benefit someone else, less fortunate, they may be more receptive to the idea. There are usually senior centers in every community that have programs that handle just this kind of issue. There are jobs and projects that seniors can sign up for that not only provide a bit of extra income but make them feel productive and useful as they once did.
  • Talk, talk, talk! Engage Aunt Aggie in some choice conversation and you might be surprised.Nothing lights up the family Matriarch like sharing her experiences and accomplishments back in the day. It can actually be incredibly interesting too. How else do younger generations learn about life in 1925 and Uncle Leroy's multiple marriages.
  • Volunteer to visit a housebound senior, whether it is on a professional capacity or just to sit and provide companionship to someone without family close by, there are many organizations that will assist with creating the best matches for these extremely beneficial relationships. Pets are also a great companion for many seniors and there are now many organizations that will provide a matching service for permanent adoptions or periodic visits to rest homes and convalescent centers
  • If you do feel that a senior's condition is more severe than initially thought,they may need intervention of some sort for their own safety, so don't hesitate to make a call. Professional attention can make a huge difference, the earlier the better since it may be a minor physical issue that can be resolved with the right medication.. A thorough physical and mental assessment may be in order, and sometimes we all avoid that visit out of fear of the unknown so try to be compassionate and supportive
  • Do try and utilize as many outside resources as you can in your community as they do exist and they are very familiar with the growing needs of an aging population. If for whatever reason one does not exist,look into starting an organization that meets the needs of this rapidly expanding problem. More and more people are going to find themselves in need of these kind of services so it seems best to deal with it more proactively
  • Don't forget to laugh - it is contagious and I hear it does great things for the body and mind, young and old alike!

Cynthia Scott Sings about her Mother's Dementia

Move it - With a Smile

Source

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    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Greetings to you Colin! It is so good to hear from you! It is nice to chat with my favorite HP friends. Sounds like you and your Mother established a deeper relationship as she grew older, although it is never easy - if one is able to look at it as an opportunity to give back to the people who cared for them then it is indeed a really a special time to learn everything you can before it is too late, and such a privilege it is!

      I am so glad that you and your kitties are well, have a wonderful Holiday Season - hope to talk with you soon!

      xoxo Kathy

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      5 years ago

      Hello Kathy - well this remarkable and very touching hub subject truly shows your beautiful heart and mind and it was one of the best things I will ever do in my life - look after my dear mum after dad died - no regrets about my sacrifices - only good memories and pride of looking after my best friend.

      I hope sincerely you are well with these days with your extended family and Colin and Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel are sending you their hugs and love from lake erie time ontario canada 4:41pm where it's winter now but no snow yet and Gabe and I just came back from his walk along the beach - it gets dark at 5pm so I'd better go back out and for a walk on my own - Gabe is back in with Tiffy and sleeping

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      You are so sweet CK, thank you!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Thank you Diane, how did I miss mentioning the value of the Internet? My Mom used to take computer classes at the senior center which eventually allowed her to stay connected to friends and family. I do commend you for taking the time to reach out to your aunts, I am sure it means the world to them! Thanks so much for your comments, you make a really good point!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Hi Sharyn! I figured this topic would be near and dear to your heart, and you are so right....The most insignificant little thing that one does can absolutely make someone's day, especially an isolated senior that has health problems coupled with depression. Who wouldn't be depressed?

      Reaching out is so rewarding and I always think that we will all be there someday - How do I want to be treated? Thanks for your valuable input dear SS, your writing is just blossoming and I am so proud of your effort-Write on my friend!

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 

      5 years ago from Fontana

      Chatkath, I hate talking on the telephone; however, I call my elderly aunts and have to talk to each one for at least an hour. I'm trying to get them to get on the Internet so they can keep up with many family members.

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      I tend to always look for opportunities to help someone, especially seniors. Tiny little things are appreciated and really could make someone's day. Even when I was young, I guess I was sort of a "nosey neighbor" because I watched out for others (in a good way). In my many years on and off as a Home Health Aide, I've seen it all. Elderly that are always happy or those that are always grouchy. But it really doesn't matter to me because I am there to make a difference. And it is possible to do that no matter where they are mentally. And it is extremely rewarding. Great hub CK- really good to see you!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Dearest Eddy - I am so glad that you had a chance to pop in. Thank you for your always inspiring comments!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      5 years ago from Wales

      This is indeed a wonderful hub and thank you so much for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      You are so right tillsontitan - health factors do greatly effect and sometimes limit abilities - making things even more difficult! That's why friendship is so important. I thank you for stopping by and for your always wise comments!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Thank you Diane, I am sure that you really brighten their day by reaching out, whenever possible! They are lucky to have you! So glad you came by to visit!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      You've made so many good points Chatkath....each person does not lose their individuality as they age and as a result each person ages differently. Of course physical factors can play a large role in how a person ages and that needs to be taken into consideration, but, you are so right, visiting the elderly, making them feel important, and helping them laugh can make their lives so much more interesting and worth living.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 

      5 years ago from Fontana

      I have 3 aunts and an uncle who are in their 80's. They are in other states but I try to call as much as possible and "gossip" about back in the day. One aunt cries and says she is old and stupid. I cheer her up and we laugh a lot.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Greetings to you always exploring! It is so nice to see you again, as I have really slacked off this past year....But I am looking forward to spending some more time at the old keyboard now! Thanks for your feedback, you are right, unfortunately, becoming a senior citizen is not a happy time, more often than not...

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Hi kashmir56, so nice to hear from you! I agree - self worth is what makes the difference! Trying to grow old with a smile !!Thanks for your visit!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathy 

      5 years ago from California

      Thank you Happyboomernurse - You always provide such insightful comments, I appreciate your consistent, positive support. I guess I am trying to prepare myself for the inevitable :-)

      It is so nice to see you!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a great article. So many times the elderly are forgotten or worse, My Mother spent her last days very unhappy. She lost interest in previous activities. I spent a good deal of time trying to cheer her up. Your suggestions are very helpful. Thank you for sharing..

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great well written hub and very informative, great advice and suggestions on how one can help to improve a seniors life so the may live happier and healthier and feel some self worth .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      5 years ago from South Carolina

      Beautiful hub with a lot of great suggestions about how to help seniors live happy, healthier lives.

      I liked how you used your own grandmothers' experiences to illustrate the points you were making.

      People do age differently and their thoughts about aging, beliefs about it and general attitude all influence whether they age with acceptance and grace, or retreat from life and become increasingly isolated and depressed.

      Thanks for sharing this. Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

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