August 2, 2011
Seniors who can’t leave their homes might find themselves feeling useless. But there are plenty of things they can do with a little ingenuity and help from a family or professional caregiver.
Q. My 80-year-old mom is a former volunteer of the year. It seems that she has served everyone, everywhere at one time or another. Her mind is still sharp, but she’s now homebound. Are there ways that she can still serve?
It’s great that your mom has committed her life to serving others. There are still plenty of things that she can do to feel useful. The National Service Resource Center (NSRC) (www.nationalserviceresources.org) has some wonderful ideas that you can suggest to your mother.
The Resource Center is part of a network of organizations that provide training and technical assistance to a variety of programs, funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, including those that offer seniors opportunities to serve their communities. The ideas that follow are taken from the effective practice, “Providing volunteer opportunities for homebound seniors,” which includes additional project ideas at http://www.nationalserviceresources.org/practices/17309/.
If your mom enjoys crafts, consider the following innovative projects, made available to the NSRC by RSVP:
- Knit or crochet lap robes for hospital patients, nursing home patients, geriatric centers, the Red Cross or Meals on Wheels.
- Knit “footie” slippers with non-skid pads for Meals on Wheels, hospitals or nursing homes.
- Create “new” greeting cards by recycling used birthday and get-well cards. Cut pictures from the front and glue them onto folded paper, rubber stamp messages inside and place in new envelopes. A set of cards could be provided as a holiday gift to veterans in a local veterans hospital, who could send them to friends and family.
Perhaps your mother is interested in social service outreach projects. Consider these additional suggestions from RSVP:
- Start a telephone reassurance program that matches seniors with other seniors.
- Work with a school to establish a phone friend program with children.
- Start a pen pal program with a class in a local school.
- Start a reminiscence club where each senior records one page of memories a week, written or recorded for their families.
- Assist major non-profit companies with a regular bulk mailing. Some organizations will deliver the boxes to be sorted and labeled, and then collect them later.
- Assist in researching the history of a given neighborhood.
Perhaps your mother needs help to continue to volunteer. If so, encourage her to team up with a friend. Or consider hiring a professional caregiver. For instance, local Home Instead CAREGiversSM are often called to assist seniors with a variety of projects that can help them stay independent, active and fulfilled.
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