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 seniors in your community 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 seniors in your area who are in need of help and outreach projects that are serving them, but here are just a few examples of programs to which you can offer your support.
The Humanitarian Service Project – Senior Citizen Project
This project serves seniors in DuPage County, 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.
DOROT’s Thanksgiving Meal Delivery
DOROT’s holiday meal delivery program “Brighten the day of a senior! Deliver a traditional Thanksgiving meal along with a 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.
Seniors have the option of coming to share a meal with the group at the center or have a meal delivered to their home for Thanksgiving.
Seasonal Home Maintenance at Housing Opportunities & Maintenance for Seniors (HOME)
In the city of Chicago you can help weatherize the house of a senior in need with the H.O.M.E. program. Help seniors prepare their home for the harsh winter to come. Training and materials are provided.
The goal of this program is to facilitate aging in place as long as possible and practical for each senior.
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.
Look for an angel tree in your community or contact your local Salvation Army for more details.
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
This program from So Others May Eat (SOME) says “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.”
This group works in Washington DC. You make the food basket using the list they provide and drop off to them for distribution.
Meals on Wheels
Through Meals on Wheels, 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.
Support Senior Programs in Your Community
The programs we discussed above are just a sampling of programs that have caught our eye over time. There are many, many more great ones providing benefit to seniors across the country.
We urge you to seek out and support programs in your own community. These programs are only going to see more demand for their services as the senior population grows and puts a greater strain on all the resources available to serve them.
As with many things, you might learn the most about what is in your community with a quick Google search. Of course, local government agencies and senior centers might also point you in the right direction, but you may get the most full picture from a web search. Keep in mind. some programs operate on a shoestring budget and may not have a web presence, but most today are at least on Facebook, if they don’t have standalone sites, finding being online is needed in many eyes to have credibility.
As with donating to any cause, you should check out senior programs before you lend your support. Visit them or ask around to ensure the program is legitimate and one you will feel good supporting.
Keep in mind, too, that money is not the only way you can support local programs. They may find any time you can give them even more valuable than money!
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 our 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.
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.
Happy Holidays to you and your senior loved one!