The approach of the holiday season often leads to thoughts of what we can do to assist others in need, especially when we have what we need for our own senior loved ones.
The data from the last census tells us that one in six seniors lives below the federal poverty level. At 16%, the proportion of seniors living in poverty is also higher than the proportion of all Americans in poverty according the data.
The bottom line is that millions of seniors are suffering while trying to meet their basic needs.
Many of us are familiar with the work done by food banks, soup kitchens and those who provide holiday meals in shelters that are found across the country. But what about those seniors who are homebound, have no access to transportation to get to these sites, are disabled, or have no family to provide enhancements whether they are living at home or in a facility?
Who is thinking about helping them or giving them some treats of the season?
How about you? Do you have time or money to give to help other seniors during the holiday season but don’t know where to look?
Programs Helping Seniors in Need
There are many programs we have found that are reaching out to seniors who might be alone and in need of a little extra attention (and supplies) during the holidays.
There are probably some very needy seniors in your area and outreach projects that are serving them, but here are just a few examples of programs to which you can offer your support.
Shoe Boxes for Seniors
This is an outreach program for seniors sponsored by organizations in communities across the nation. We’re impressed by the work of one such group with whom we have been communicating for a while and want to highlight the efforts of the Lehigh Valley Business Group and Crossroads Elder Advocacy and Senior Services located in NJ.
They hope to bring much needed holiday cheer to seniors in facilities or alone at home through gifts of small items such as toiletries, nail care items, kitchen towels, wrapped candy, stamps, hats, gloves, shaving items, flashlights with batteries, gift cards, pot holders, combs, lotions and body wash, deck of cards, puzzle books and pudding/fruit cups. They will fill the shoeboxes and deliver to low income seniors in the area. Donations are being accepted until December 5. Contact Helene at 609-613-3966 for more information or how you (or your group) can help.
If you are outside that community, you might want to check online for an organization carrying out that or a similar program near you.
Currently serves 123 seniors in DuPage and Kane Counties, Illinois who have limited access to transportation and few, if any, family ties. The Senior Citizen Project delivers to seniors over 100 pounds of nutritious food each month. Fresh produce includes 15 assorted fruits and vegetables, 7 different frozen meats, fresh bread, 6 bags of non-perishable food, and paper products including toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue.
Seniors also receive household products, personal care items, and special gifts from their Secret Pals. Volunteers deliver these items right to the homes of the needy seniors at no cost to them.
The wish list program invites the senior to request items like televisions, microwaves, couches, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners to make everyday living more comfortable, or medical assistive devices such as wheelchairs, etc.
“Brighten the day of a senior! Deliver a traditional Thanksgiving meal along with a Chanukah gift to an older person and visit for about an hour.” Located in New York.
Volunteers needed to help elderly live with dignity at home, generation to generation caregiving.
In the city of Chicago you can help weatherize the house of a senior in need. Help seniors prepare their home for the harsh winter to come. Training and materials provided.
The Angel Tree Program
The Salvation Army’s highest profile Christmas effort was created in 1979 by Majors Charles and Shirley White. This program can be found throughout the country and serves not only children but seniors in need as well.
You select an angel from the tree for a senior which include their wish list. You fulfill the wish and return the gifts it to the site of the tree. Volunteers then deliver the gifts near the holidays.
The programs sponsored by Catholic Charities in your area also sponsor families and seniors who are in need of some Christmas cheer. You can locate the agency nearest you to see if you can assist their program.
Holiday Dinner Baskets for Homebound Seniors with So Others May Eat (SOME)
“Would you like to help a homebound senior this holiday season? You can provide holiday food baskets! Filled with all of the trimmings, these baskets will be delivered to low-income seniors on November 15 and December 13.”
This group works in Washington DC. You make the food basket using the list they provide and drop off to them for distribution.
“The Newport News (VA) Department of Human Services 2015 Holiday Assistance Program will match-up families and individuals in need of holiday food and/or gifts with community groups and individuals who would like to share the spirit of the season. These community groups and individuals “sponsor” those in need by providing Thanksgiving and/or Christmas assistance of food and/or gifts.”
“A local non-profit organization dedicated to serving low income families and senior citizens in central Oklahoma. The Christmas Connection provides a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere where clients are treated with dignity and respect and can shop for clothing, household items and basic necessities.” They accept volunteers and donations to keep their shop open all year.
Across the country meals are provided to homebound seniors throughout the year. Volunteers deliver meals and socialize with the seniors they serve.
At the holiday, usually special holiday meals and even treats are given through this program. Contact your local program to see how you can help using this locator.
Holidays Aren’t the Only Time of Need
During the holidays, we want to share the spirit of the season with those in need of some help. However, it is nice to remember that most of the programs that help vulnerable seniors could use your help at other times during the year. Most food banks give meals every week, meals on wheels are delivered daily during the week, and aging service organizations have opportunities to volunteer in many ways.
If you have the time, you could share your talents (or treasure) with organizations near you that help our seniors.
As with any charity, you will want to check them out and see if they meet your personal guidelines for who they help and where the money is distributed. Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of our charitable nature to steal in the name of helping.
This list includes only a few organizations but we know there are many more near you including churches and agencies with outreach programs that can use your help or your donation.
Family caregivers are very busy people who don’t always have extra time for other ‘jobs’ and could often use help themselves. Still, if you have the resources and desire to help seniors you will be reminded that in giving to others we end up being the recipients of something special ourselves.