Our Elderly are some of the most overlooked and underappreciated members of our community. Currently, around one million Americans live in some type of senior living community, and that number is expected to double by the year 2030. Unfortunately, many family members do not live near their relatives and/or do not have adequate time to visit as often as possible. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, visits have been impossible. However, it is important to remember how amazing and important the older generation is in the lives of younger generations and how keeping those connections strong is beneficial to everyone. At Pebble Tossers we strive to make as many older members of our community feel needed and cherished. Not only does increased interaction brighten their lives, but it gives them the opportunity to instill wisdom on those volunteering.
One organization worth noting is A.G. Rhodes Health and Rehab. A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab participates in a weeklong camp called Generation Connect, where high school kids are paired with a senior citizen. They spend the entire week eating lunch with them, going to classes within the facility, and also bringing in career coaches for the kids. Lastly, the kids participated in a dementia simulation where they were better able to understand the physical effects of such a terrible disease. The kids developed a deeper sense of empathy for their older buddy and at the end of the week, they gave a report on their life. The expression on their faces as the kids explained their lives demonstrates how much this week means to them. A.G. Rhodes facilitates connection and relationships between vastly different generations. It is mutually beneficial as the elder feels connected to society and the teen learns more about the past along with nuggets of wisdom.
There are many other ways to brighten our Elderly populations’ day. This can include participating in a ”fur kids” event where a local shelter brings puppies into the assisted living center. It is scientifically proven that puppy therapy lowers stress and releases oxytocin in the brain. There is also “Toy Day” where kids bring in their favorite toy and introduce it to a member of the facility. The kids get to hear about toys from older generations and compare their interests. Then, the kids get a list of questions to ask their person so they can have a longer, more in-depth conversation. Talking about their lives helps seniors with memory longevity and processing emotions. We also have teens come in and educate seniors about technology so they can connect with family that may live further away.
Overall, interacting with senior citizens is a mutually beneficial relationship. Volunteers learn to respect their elders and just walking through the door and being present brightens their day immensely. There is so much to be learned whether they are a family member or not; family history, historical world events, life lessons, generational culture, and much more. The transfer of knowledge between these generations is so important. There are many ways to start volunteering and below are a few organizations perfect for getting started: