Everyone could use a little more kindness in their life. Yet showing kindness is often done while being present and engaged with those around us. With the ongoing pandemic, older adults are more physically distant from loved ones and friends than ever before. In fact, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging, 14.7 million older adults live alone — often going days or even weeks without any social interaction.
With such isolation, it has never been more important to find new ways to demonstrate empathy and compassion for older adults in your community. By prioritizing acts of goodwill and displays of selflessness, we can help build a kinder and more compassionate world.
“A year into the pandemic, it’s often hard to see the positive in the world,” said Erin Albers, vice president of Social Purpose at Home Instead. “But there is hope, and social distancing doesn’t have to mean disconnecting. There are plenty of ways to impact the lives of our aging community from a safe distance.”
One of the easiest ways to let older adults know they are valued is by simply engaging with them, which can leave a lasting, positive impact. Research has shown that acts of kindness can improve the physical and mental health of a senior and strengthen the bond between the giver and the recipient.
Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 14-20) is a great opportunity to make an older adult in your life feel seen, heard and loved. It all starts with adding a little bit of kindness to your everyday routine. Albers suggests a random act of kindness for each day of the week to connect with the older adults near you:
- Monday: Lend a hand. During the pandemic, older adults may be isolated without the normal help they receive from family or friends. Give a senior neighbor a hand by offering to finish an outdoor project for them. Tackle the activities that may prove to be more difficult for them first: bring their newspaper or mail to their doorstep, shovel snow or scrape ice off their car. If you need help getting started, download and print a card to say “I’m Ready to Help.”
- Tuesday: Write a letter (or two). When we rely on our phones and text messages to convey love and appreciation, feelings can get lost in translation. A letter to an older adult is a simple gesture that bears great meaning. For isolated seniors, it may even be the one interaction they’ve had in a long time. Take it one step further by becoming a pen pal. Skip the stamps by submitting your letter online at ReadyToCare.com/penpals.
- Wednesday: Deliver dinner. Social distancing can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially around mealtime. Surprise a senior friend by treating them to a home-cooked meal or an entree from their favorite local restaurant. Consider making several meals in bulk and freezing them. Having healthy frozen meals on hand may be particularly helpful for seniors who live alone.
- Thursday: Pick up the tab. It can be a scary time for older adults to leave their homes. Next time you see a senior at the grocery store, drive-thru or car wash, consider picking up the bill. Or, pay it forward in other ways. For example, create a video with Celebrate. Use the promo code KINDNESS to create a heartwarming gift for a loved one while simultaneously supporting the important work of charities that support older adults. 75% of every video purchased with this code will go directly to Home Instead Foundation to support seniors in need.
- Friday: Create a kindness jar. To fuel your kindness well beyond Random Acts of Kindness Week, fill a jar with ideas and inspiration for thoughtful acts. Once a week, select one idea from the jar and make it your mission to complete it for a senior friend or stranger. At the end of the year, think back on the difference you were able to make in the lives of others. For more ideas, sign up to receive free weekly text messages from Ready to Care by Home Instead.
While these ideas are simple, they’ll leave a lasting impression. Even the smallest interactions can increase someone’s quality of life and positively impact their health. Helping those in need through random acts of kindness and care will matter more than ever in the days ahead.