As we age: Giving the gift of company
By Graham Hookey
As the holiday season sets in, it is important for everyone involved with the elderly to remember that perhaps the most important thing they can receive is the gift of company.
One of the great challenges of getting old is losing your friends and social connections, and in a modern world where the workforce is mobile, losing a personal relationship with relatives.
Loneliness is difficult at the best times, but often deeper in the holiday season.
It is, at times, like the holidays that a letter, a phone call, or a visit can mean so much more.
The arrival of flowers, or a fruit basket, or a simple gift at the door can make all the difference to someone who is a shut-in or who lives alone.
A tin of baked goods taken to an elderly neighbour who’s rarely seen, can remind them that they are not invisible or forgotten.
As an educator, I know we do a lot in schools to support the homeless, the hungry and the children whose families may not be in the financial position to provide them with the kind of holiday we would wish for any children.
Schools often take choirs and bands to eldercare homes and the sight of young people is generally greeted with big smiles and lots of laughter.
Every grandparent tends to enjoy the company of children.
Of course, in such homes, there are generally a lot of dedicated staff members who provide company and support to the elderly on a daily basis.
But in almost all of our neighbourhoods, there are elderly couples or single individuals who spend much of their time out of our line of sight.
They may choose to be reclusive or they may have become so through a combination of mobility issues, depression or simply shyness in interacting with others.
Of all the things I have learned since I have spent time with the elderly friends and neighbours of my parents, it’s that most of the elderly ask for very little from others. They have a tendency to take care of their own business and don’t like to bother others.
Maintaining the appearance of independence is important to them.
But they love company.
Perhaps it would be a good idea during this holiday season to take a look around and see if someone in the neighbourhood could use a little kindness.
Although it might seem like a gift to them, to offer some company or some baked goods, it might turn out to be a gift to you.
Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare (firstname.lastname@example.org).