Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Need a great New Year’s Resolution? Volunteer at a Senior Facility!

By Bob Gregory

I’m sure the Holidays have packed on a few pounds and you are considering the most popular and rarely kept New Year’s Resolution—lose weight and get in shape!  It’s important to take care of yourself but this year I challenge you to make a Resolution to help others.  If you are willing to give of yourself, I think you will find it most rewarding for you and others.  One of the most overlooked groups is our elderly.  This year, consider volunteering in a Senior Facility such as an Assisted Living Facility or a Nursing Home.  These types of Senior Facilities are very well staffed to meet the medical needs of their residents but they sometimes find it a challenge to continuously meet the social needs of their residents.  This provides a great opportunity for you to volunteer!

If you have a family member or friend who is a resident of a Senior Facility, you can begin your volunteering resolution by contacting the Executive Director or Activities Director to offer your time.   If you do not have a relationship with a Senior Facility, search for a facility near you (you can get a list at and contact the Executive Director or Activities Director to coordinate volunteering.  Keep in mind there is a difference between an Assisted Living Facility and a Nursing Home when deciding where to volunteer!  Generally, residents of an Assisted Living Facility are more mobile than residents of a Nursing Home so you may find greater opportunity to volunteer at a Nursing Home.  If you are not sure how to volunteer your time, I have a few suggestions for you that are applicable to either type facility.

Volunteer services anyone can provide:

  1. Offer to assist the Activities Directory as needed.  A trained Activities Director will give you tasks that you are comfortable performing and these activities will usually be in a group setting as opposed to a one-on-one basis.  This is great for first-time volunteers at a Senior Facility.
  1. Read to the residents.  Seniors often find it difficult to read even with large print books.  You ca
    Seniors Playing Cards
    Seniors Playing Cards (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))
    n read to a group who are interested in the book or to an individual resident.
  1. Play cards and board games.  This is another great activity that can involve a group or an individual and provides entertainment.
  1. Conversation—listening.  Most Seniors have stories they love to tell but need someone to tell them to—that’s you!  You will probably find the stories interesting and entertaining so listen carefully and try not to question the validity of stories that may sound a little unbelievable; the facts may have changed over time due to memory loss.
  1. Take walks around the Facility.  Seniors often like to get outdoors and walk around the gardens that most facilities provide.  However, may Seniors are afraid to go out alone in the event of a fall or they need help.  This is a great opportunity to assist and interact on a one-to-one basis.  Check with a Facility Caregiver to make sure there are no special challenges for the resident you help.
  1. Gardening.  Many Facilities have areas where their residents can garden.  Provide flowers and vegetables to plant and help with the planting, watering and maintenance.  This is a good project as it is something to provide continuous enjoyment.
    Entertaining at The Cottages
    of Port Richey,
  1. Clean and decorate a resident’s room.  Not all residents have family to bring them decorative items for their room or to help them keep it in order.  You can help decorate or organize drawers and closets.  This type of help will be appreciated by both the resident and the staff!
  1. Teach computing and using the internet.  Seniors are one of the fastest growing groups that use the internet.  If you are tech-savvy and the Facility provides a computer and internet connection, you can teach residents to connect online with family and friends!  If the Facility does not provide a computer, you may ask about donating one.
  1. Share mealtime with residents who tend to eat alone or in their room.  Some residents have problems eating due to physical limitations or side effects from a stroke and they are not comfortable eating in the dining room with others.  Your patience and company can make mealtime more enjoyable!
  1. Entertain with music and song.  If you can play an instrument or sing then you can certainly entertain at a Senior Facility!  You will find your “audience” to be appreciative and nonjudgmental.  Involve as many residents as you can for a sing-along or to play an instrument with you.  Music is a great source of enjoyment in a Senior Facility.
There are many other activities you can do, but this list should give you some ideas and the courage to volunteer.  You will also receive ideas and inspiration from the Activities Director and the residents themselves.  Spend as much time with as many of the residents as possible as everyone enjoys a visitor!  Some Senior Facilities may require certain paper work, such as a background check, to be completed prior to volunteering but please don’t let that get in your way.

If you find you need an Assisted Living Facility, Nursing Home or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider

If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 

We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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