There are lots of ways you can do your bit to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. The person you’re helping will reap health benefits, and you’ll find you will as well.
Volunteering for an organisation that supports older people is a key way of helping a lonely or socially isolated older person. But a simple friendly chat or phone call can make all the difference, too.
Evidence suggests giving your time in this way could be as valuable to you as the person you support. It’s likely to boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose. And helping others takes your mind off your own problems for a while.
Start a conversation
It’s not always easy to know who or how to help. A good start is simply to stop and talk to an elderly neighbors if you pass them on the street.
If you think an older person may have trouble hearing or has memory problems make sure to speak clearly.
Pause between sentences and questions to give them chance to digest the information. And allow a little extra time for them to respond – don’t hurry them.
Offer practical help
Do you know an older person who lives alone, rarely leaves the house, has recently suffered a bereavement, is in poor health, disabled, has sight or hearing loss, or doesn’t seem to have close family living nearby?
Ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters, picking up prescriptions and medicines or dog-walking.
Offer to accompany them or give them a lift to, activities or doctors’ and hospital appointments, the library, hairdressers or faith services.
Share your time
Volunteer for organisations that support older people. These often offer “befriending” schemes for isolated elderly people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact as a telephone “buddy”, visitor or driver, or hosting social events for groups.
Your contribution could be as simple as a weekly telephone call to an isolated older person, or extend to regular home visits for a chat and to help with shopping and so on, driving an elderly person to a social event, or even hosting coffee mornings for groups of elderly people.