Every February we shower those we care most about in the world with sweet Valentines, candy, and flowers. It’s easy to remember our loved ones on Valentine’s Day. This year, why not consider spreading the love by adding one more “loved one” to your list? Seniors homes are filled with folks who get regular visits from family and friends, but they are also home to lonely seniors who rarely see anyone besides staff.
You could change the life of a lonely senior by “adopting” them as an honorary grandparent. Reaching out to a senior in need of contact will certainly make you feel good, but it will do wonders for that person too.
Interacting with others less frequently as we age isn’t just an unfortunate situation—it’s one that can actually impact our health. Studies have shown that seniors who have more frequent social activity have lower levels of disability in several areas.1 Not only that, staying connected may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers—and can even boost your immune system.2
The adoption process
The first step is to contact a local nursing home or seniors’ residence to find out if they would be interested in matching you with a senior who is in need of a little extra love. If they are willing, ask for a little bit of not-too-personal information about your adopted grandparent such as what their interests or hobbies are (or were), what snacks and treats they like, and how much contact they can tolerate (remember, some seniors may have physical or mental health issues that can limit their ability to be social for long periods of time). This will help you learn a little about your new friend before you even meet them.
Undoubtedly what your adopted grandparent will appreciate most is a friendly face and someone new who will listen to their stories and give them a little extra TLC, but it’s always nice to bring special treats along when you visit. It could be a magazine or book they might be interested in, home-baked treats, a puzzle book and pen, a lovely smelling bottle of lotion, cards they can display, a cuddly new blanket—anything that demonstrates the fact that they are important to you and that they still matter to someone.
You don’t have to make a huge time commitment, but regular contact is important once you’ve established your relationship because your senior friend will come to look forward to your visits—you will become an important part of their life. Try visit a few at least a few times each month and send cards and treats by mail when you’re not there so that they know that you’re always thinking of them.
Adopting a grandparent is a wonderful way to expand your own sense of community, to teach your children the importance of looking for ways to make a positive difference, and to make a real and lasting impact in someone’s life.
You might also consider organizing a Foresters volunteer activity to spread even more love to seniors in the place where your adopted grandparent calls home.
4179434C CAN/US 02/20