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H.O.W - Helping and Showing Kindness to the Elderly

Updated on April 25, 2013

Have you imagined yourself at 80 years old, ninety, or even a hundred?

This type of thinking often scares most people. They don't want to think about getting old and not being able to do a lot of the things that they're used to doing.

Being old and being forced to rely on other people for basic needs, entertainment or anything else can't be easy. Especially by those who are in a lot of pain at the same time.

Yet, so few of us take the time to bring some sort of joy or comfort to those who are in the final stages of their lives.

We're too busy. Our lives are too important.

You've heard granny tell that story a hundred times, and grandpa moans too much about his aches and pains. Maybe you don't have any grandparents.

What if that were you in twenty, forty, sixty years from now? What if all you were aching for was just half an hour of someone else's time?

What if...


The Elderly and Shopping: Lending a Helping Hand

Sometimes we might get annoyed or impatient with elderly people in the grocery stores.

They walk slowly, or they're in wheelchairs.

They stand in the middle of the aisles trying to decide what to buy, or they make a scene with one of the employees because their favourite brand of jam is sold out.

Have you considered at all how hard it must be for most of them to go shopping?

Imagine the frustration of not being able to do things as fast as you used to. Or the fact that you're unable to hear properly, or your vision isn't quite what it used to be.

Then, top that off with running children playing tag, stressed-out parents with full trolleys who charge their way down the aisles, and people who are too self involved within themselves and each other to notice that you need a helping hand.

Shopping as a senior citizen must be a nightmare. And I haven't even mentioned the check out or parking area.

I know that if I was struggling to look for something, I'd want someone to lend me a quick helping hand. It takes less than a minute, and you'd be saving that person more than that.

Ways To Help:

  • Smile at them, even if they don't smile back
  • Offer to grab an item that's out of reach on a shelf
  • Call an employee if they need help finding an item
  • Move out of their way if you can in the aisles
  • Ignore their grumpiness or sarcasm if you're an employee
  • Offer to help them load their groceries in the car if they're on their own

Elderly Grandparents

If you're lucky enough to have a grandparent or grandparents still around, you should treasure them.

It doesn't matter if they talk about the same day that they fell in love fifty years ago every time you see them.

It doesn't matter if they moan about the weather, how horrible your hair looks, or the fact that Aunty June hasn't been to visit them in ages.

Whether they show it or not, they appreciate the visit and having someone to talk to - especially if it's their grandchildren.

There are so many things that we can learn from our grandparents - they have a whole lifetime of knowledge and stories at their fingertips...we can learn so much from them.

All they ask from us is just a few minutes of our time every couple of weeks (or more if that's possible).

If you don't live close to your grandparents, pick up the phone and give them a call.

What You Can Do:

  • Don't say, "You told me that last week, Granny!" Just smile and nod as though you're hearing the story for the first time.
  • Talk to them about what's going on in your life - give them something to be proud of and brag about to their friends.
  • Bring them sweet treats and/or flowers whenever you visit. Remember how they used to spoil you when you were small? Grandparents like to be spoiled as well.
  • Chat about their favourite sports, soap operas, or books.
  • Reminisce with them about the "good old days" and family holidays.
  • Take them out for an outing - a museum, a picnic outside, a walk through the park, etc.

Retirement Homes and the Elderly

No one wants to be put in a retirement home. Unfortunately, this is often the case when people become old and they need somewhere to live where they'll be able to have medical assistance in a hurry if they need it.

What many people don't realize, is that retirement homes are often very lonely and depressing places.

Fellow neighbours are dying around them, visits from family are few and far between - or not at all. Life becomes stagnant and there's often a feeling of being "boxed in" away from the rest of the world.

If you have grandparents or parents who live in retirement homes, make it your mission to visit them as often as possible.

You wouldn't want to lie in bed all day on your own when you're old with no one to talk to, would you?

If you don't have parents or grandparents in retirement homes, there's no reason why you can't make a gesture to improve the lives of the elderly living there - even if it's only for an hour.

A Small Effort Makes a World of Difference

  • If you're a people's person, visit a retirement home in your area and go speak to one or a few residents who have no one to talk to. Find out from the nurses which residents don't have any family, or who needs some cheering up.
  • If you're in the catering business, offer to cook their meals. More often than not, the food served in these homes leave a lot to be desired.
  • If you can, bring your dog (if it's not too big), or a friend and her baby with for a visit.
  • Bring photographs and videos of places of interest to them (e.g. nature photos, funny or prank video clips, etc.)
  • If you're in a drama or music group, arrange to put on weekly or monthly shows for everyone.

There are literally hundreds of ways to put a smile on someone's face or bring them some joy. Being old isn't easy and it's not pleasant.

If we only take a few moments out of our own lives to do something special or comforting for someone else, we'd be making an enormous difference to them.

Think about yourself twenty, forty, or sixty years from now and how you would like to be treated.


This Hub is part of the H.O.W (Humanity One World) movement. We're trying to spread awareness to make the world a better place one act at a time. If you'd like to join, please visit the H.O.W Facebook Page. The more people that join and try spread the word, the better!


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    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      That's such a cool idea Pinkchick18! Sure the residents will love it! :)

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      5 years ago from Minnesota

      Awesome hub here, I've been trying to get our youth group to go play bingo at the nursing home. This pushed me to set it up :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Crystal - thank you! :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Glimmer Twin Fan, that's amazing! I think it's great that you're doing that and taking your daughter with. Such a great way to give back and bring some joy. Thanks for your comment!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      A lovely hub, a subject matter we should all consider. Voted up.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Up awesome and shared. This is a great hub with lots of great advice. I volunteer at the retirement community that my parents live in and in the summers my daughter comes with me. We get as much joy in our time there as they get from us coming.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thank you Gypsy Rose! :) A smile and a kind word cost absolutely nothing. Some people don't realize how easy it is to change the day (or life) of someone else by doing this.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and awesome. A wonderful message. You are so right. We should be kind and understanding toward the elderly because we will be elderly eventually too. A warm smile and a kind word can go a long way. Passing this on.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thank you Dianna! Yes, I also love that picture....pulls right at the heartstrings and that's what life is all about as you say, mentoring the youth, but also about family and respecting your elders.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Irc7815! It makes me so cross to read things like this because I've seen it so many times. People get annoyed with the elderly all the time, instead of taking the time to help them. They don't realise what a huge difference it makes to them. And you're right - they DO know more about life than what we do. Thanks so much for sharing that, and for commenting, voting, sharing and linking :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Chris, I was exactly the same in my early twenties. I also used to say, "Yes, Granny we'll visit more", or "Yes, I'll call more often", always thinking there was more time. I don't think we did it intentionally. I'm just glad to have the memories of the times we did spend together....that's something to treasure forever.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Kristyleann! Thank you so much for stopping in to comment. It's interesting to get your point of view as an EMT and CNA. I take my hat off to those who do this job. My mother in law also did this - 12 hour shifts, and honestly she'd be exhausted when she got home. They too were short staffed. Seeing a friendly face - be it a family member, or a volunteer who visits once a week for an hour or two can make such a difference.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Gypsy48, yes! They quite literally are that...starved for someone to just sit and listen to them for a few minutes. Especially if they're on their own in a room with nothing much to do each day. Thanks for commenting!

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thanks shiningirish eyes :) The treatment I'm afraid to say isn't that much better over here. We should have more respect, but respect in many cultures and of many ages is lacking around the world. The way that parents let their children speak to them, the way that parents ignore their children, the way that children disrespect their teachers. It's shocking.

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Such a good comparison btrbell! I've also heard that saying and you're right, it's not the same at all! Thanks for the vote and share! :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      It's scary lord...we're all heading in that direction, and it doesn't take too much time at all. What is half an hour a week even? Yet, often we're just so "busy". Thanks for reading! :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Bill, I know - it's shocking. And the way that some of the staff in these homes treat the elderly is even worse - but that's a whole other story altogether. Thanks Bill! :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Bill, yes....we're all going to get to that age one day whether we like it or not. I just like to think of how I'd like to be treated then. Thanks so much for reading! :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Louisa, you're right - people of previous generations have so much to teach us and share. I think it's great that you have a friend to visit to learn from, and who is able to share her experience with someone else :)

    • MelChi profile imageAUTHOR

      Melanie Chisnall 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thank you Janine! I can see you being helpful to just about anyone who comes across your path :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      What a sweet share. I love the elderly and respect them as they are truly seasoned well in all aspects of life. Love your photo post of the little girl with the woman. This is truly what it's about: mentoring the youth. Voted way up!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Oh, this one got me right in the heart. My parents are in their mid 80's. One has Alzheimer's and the other has had a massive stroke. I get so angry when I take them out and clerks or strangers talk down to them or act impatient. Our elders know more about life than we will ever know. They have lived through harder times than we've ever seen and we can learn so much from them. They have cared for us and sacrificed for us, their children, and they deserve our respect, honor, and care. What a wonderful hub with beautiful suggestions on how we SHOULD be treating the elderly. Voted way up, awesome, linking it to one of mine, and sharing it too.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I remember when I was in my twenties, I'd talk to my Grandpa on the phone once in a long, long while, and he'd always tell me, "Call more often. I miss you. I'll reverse the charges. Or you can call collect; I'll accept the call..." And I'd always reply, "Yeah, okay..."

      But I still only called a few times per year. And now I can't call him. Now it's too late.

    • kristyleann profile image

      Kristy LeAnn 

      5 years ago from Princeton, WV

      Great hub. =) It may be annoying to listen to the same old story again and again but once someone is gone, they're gone. Years later you'll find yourself wishing you could hear one of those stories again. I've been an EMT and a CNA and you're absolutely right...nursing homes can be really lonely places. Employees do their best to spend time with each resident but it's really difficult when most of these places are understaffed and you've got 10 or more people to take care of. A lot of people probably think "Oh I could do this or that or volunteer or whatever but what difference would it make?" but for some lady that never gets to see her family or grandchildren and never really gets to see or do anything new, it just might mean the world to that one person. Sometimes the smallest things can affect people's lives in the biggest way.

    • Gypsy48 profile image


      5 years ago

      It is so sad how some of our elderly are neglected by their own families. These folks are starved for someone just to sit and visit with them. To pay attention to them and let them know they are still valued. Awesome hub!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Such an important part of the H.O.W. campaign. The way we treat our elderly in this country is shameful. We need to take a lesson from China and Japan who hold their elderly in the highest level of respect.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Up+. A very important message! They say we go back to being like babies. But that's not entirely true. Babies are the center of our attention and the elderly so often get cast aside. Great hub, great message! thank you for sharing this!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      5 years ago from New York

      I agree Billy! Thanks Melanie for your response and your excellent tips given in here. Hope people could listen and spread the word. We all will be there one day!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for this, Mel! The way Americans treat the elderly is almost criminal. Shove them off in a home and visit them once a month....what's up with that? They are human beings and deserve respect. Great suggestions, ones that really shouldn't have to be made if we lived in a compassionate society.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mel. There is a great message here. We are all going to get old and at some point in our lives we are going to have to rely on others for the basic necessities in life. It takes very little effort to make someone's day. The elderly have so much wisdom to share with anyone willing to listen. Great job. Voting up and sharing.

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 

      5 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      These are great ideas, Melchi. I like the idea of going into nursing homes. I enjoy listening to people of previous generations. I have a close friend in her 80s, who, due to depression, is pretty much a recluse and I visit her.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      5 years ago from New York, New York

      Great tips here and truly inspiring. I wish my grandparents were still with us, but unfortunately they all passed on now, but when I do see someone older when I am out, I always try to be kind and helpful towards them and truly agree with you on that. Have of course voted up and shared all over!!


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