Independent Elderly Need Our Help ...
Cold Temperatures can be deadly to our Elderly.
Life in general can be very challenging, but the harsh cold of winter presents many extra challenges for certain groups that could really use a little extra help in the cold of winter... As a society, we take for granted that everyone is taken care of as far as food and heat are concerned when the thermometer takes a nose dive, and our main concerns are always of our immediate welfare or that of our immediate family.
Many of our elderly citizens like to feel they are independent and opt to live in their homes rather than depend on government housing or assisted living quarters for assistance in extreme conditions, and many of these independent souls perish each year as a result of their own pride. Many have lived a very proud life and are reluctant to ask for assistance of any kind, whether that is food, housing or home heating. Others are simply unaware of any available help, or don't know how to get the help they need.
I suppose one of their greatest challenges would be learning to live on a fixed income... Those that depend solely on a Social Security Check to provide for their total livelihood seem to be the ones most challenged. In most cases they must pay for housing, food, transportation & insurance, utilities and medicines. Many times there just isn't enough money coming in to pay all their bills, so they are forced to make decisions of where to cut back in their budgets to make ends meet. As sad as it may sound, many of these individuals choose to cut back on their food and utility budgets in order to make ends meet.
Harsh winter cold requires extra utility usage whether you heat with gas or electricity, and many times the elderly will turn their heat source completely off during the daylight hours to try to save a little on their utility bills. Although in their minds they think this is a very wise decision to help them afford all their bills, it often times leads to sickness or even death. In some instances they get behind on the utility bills because the bills in the cold winter months exceed their budget, resulting in having their utilities turned off completely !
Proper nutrition in the server cold is very important as well... Many times the independent elderly aren't physically able to prepare nutritious meals, let alone afford the added utility bills for cooking on a gas or electric stove, and will opt for snack foods or instant foods that don't require much more than a microwave to prepare. Without the structure of set meal times, this ultimately leads to poor eating habits. Over-eating sweets or salty snack foods leads to diabetes & high blood pressure, and the nutritional value is very poor to say the least, and when you combine all the factors, you can see how this would lead to unnecessary illness.
Things we can do to help ...
Local Churches have many outreach programs that are designed to help meet the needs of our elderly... Some of these programs include "Meals on Wheels", "Heating Assistance" and "Medical Transportation", but many of the elderly that have never been involved or associated with a church may resent being offered this type of help simply because they fear "Religion" or a churches beliefs will try to be influenced upon them. This is really not the case, but that fear will keep many from asking for much needed help. Remember, these independent souls would rather not ask for any help at all, rather than be scrutinized by an organization they have never been a member of and don't intend to become a part of. So what can we do to help these individuals ?
Friendship with the elderly in your community would be a great way to start... Many times these independent people will accept help from a friend before they will the churches. It is often easy to recognize the needs of our elderly family members because these are people we have basically known all our lives, but when it comes to the elderly in our community, we often fail to help them because we haven't taken the time to try to get to know them. As with any worthwhile project, establishing a relationship with the independent elderly may take some time. Try to look for some of their obvious needs without being too intrusive to help you establish a relationship.
This can be done easily in the warmer months by offering to cut their overgrown lawn for free, or when you see them out doing some tasks around their home, walk up and offer your help. Maybe even befriend their pets you see around their homes to help you strike up a conversation. Perhaps it could be as simple as getting their name and phone number from the phone book and calling to let them know you are a neighbor and are planning on doing something in the neighborhood... The key is to make contact and keep in touch.
Once you have established a relationship, plan visits or phone calls on a frequent basis during the cold weather just to see how they are doing and if they need anything. Perhaps preparing food for them under the pretenses you had all this extra food that you didn't want to see go bad and wondered if they would help you by taking it off your hands. Short visits for coffee and conversation may reveal many ways you can help them without coming right out and asking them point blank what you can do to help. These visits will also help you to determine if the home is warm enough, or if the person or persons living there are sick and may need help getting to a doctor's appointment or hospital.
There are actually many ways we can help the elderly and needy in our communities if we open our minds as well as our hearts to all the possibilities. You can volunteer or sponsor an "Old Coat & Blanket Drive" through your church or place of work to help keep the needy warm. A canned food drive is always a nice gesture and many local grocery stores are more than happy to allow you to place donation boxes near their exits. Talk to your local utility companies to see if they have a "Round-Up" program implemented in their business where you can round-up your bill to the nearest dollar each month to help those in need during the winter months.
No one person can expect to change the world, but if we all pull together toward worthwhile goals, we will see that we are making a difference. You don't necessarily have to be a "Christian" to have a charitable heart... But if we all follow our hearts to do what is right in the world, perhaps someday the favors will be returned to us in ten fold... Please help the elderly in your community this winter and always.