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Independent Elderly Need Our Help ...

Updated on June 27, 2010

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.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub Steppeno.

      I am uneasy about being drawn into a caregiver role. But many elders need only a few bits of assistance to keep their independence. Just having a friendly neighbor they could call to change a light bulb can be life changing. The alternatives: do without the light, or stand on a chair to reach the fixture. Either could result in a fall which leads to hospital.

      There is another aspect to winter: the very old gradually lose their ability to sense when they are too cold. We need to be proactive as you say.

    • Steppeno profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Collier 

      8 years ago from Jones Road Farms, 1785 Ben Jones Road, Clarkesville, Ga. 30523

      It really is sad Old Timer... I have a brother that hasn't called or visited our mother in 10 years !!! The sad part is, he only lives 10 miles away... How disrespectful can you be !?!

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Excellent hub! With much truth. I don't have neighbors any more or a community but still I find much wisdom in your hub. It makes one stop and think. People have little patience for any thing or one these days, it's sad.

    • Steppeno profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Collier 

      8 years ago from Jones Road Farms, 1785 Ben Jones Road, Clarkesville, Ga. 30523

      I have witnessed the mistreatment of the elderly by family members in a line at the grocery store... Raising their voices and trying to hurry them up because they were taking so long to try to pay for their purcases. When I see an 89 year old man decide he wants to go to the grocery store to purchase his own groceries, it makes my heart feel glad... But when I see the impatience of family members that took them to the store, my gladness turns to anger. The old saying,"Grandma was slow... but she was old," is very true, and we as a society should have patience no matter how long it seems to take... A smile and an encouraging word goes a long way when it comes to dealing with the elderly. I just wish people in their busy lives would learn to have a little patience and understanding in their lives...

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      8 years ago from Connecticut

      Wonderful hub with great advice! I think it is so sad that caring for the elderly in this way is not a "natural" in our society anymore.

      I was taught to care for family as they get older as well, and brought my grandmother to live with me so I could look after her. People were always shocked that I wanted to take care of her. I think that is so strange - and sad!

    • Steppeno profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Collier 

      8 years ago from Jones Road Farms, 1785 Ben Jones Road, Clarkesville, Ga. 30523

      Call me old fashioned if you like... But I was raised to believe we are supposed to look out for our Elderly... As far as family goes, they have always been there for us when we needed them... But why stop there !?! Looking out for the Elderly and people less fortunate than ourselves is just the "Right" thing to do. I look out for my mother and her sister who are both in their late seventies... I've even created a "Home Based Business" (Jones Road Farms), raising rabbits so I can be here for them when they need me. It seems I'm always broke these days after everything gets paid, but I have never felt so content just knowing that what I am doing is the "Right" thing to do.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The elderly are also deprived of vitamins. Love this hub - addresses the critical issues that will face America.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thoughtful Hub - it never hurts to make a phone call just to check if everything's okay.

    • Bail Up ! profile image

      Bail Up ! 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this hub Steppeno. Too many elderly folks are just too proud to ask for help , yours are good ideas to sneak in a bit of it :)


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