Last night I spent an hour volunteering with an organization called Bessie’s Hope at a nursing home in downtown Denver. Walking onto the floor of the nursing home, the odor was definitely not sweet, the look was dated and the amenities were minimal. My assumption was that the patients had no means and were probably all covered by Medicaid.
Before we were to meet with the patients, there was a training we all went through so we would know what to do and say. I know some, if not all of us, felt awkward and uncertain. My volunteer group was lead into the living room where 13 patients were all seated, mostly in wheelchairs.
Our facilitator, Linda Holloway, co-founder of Bessie’s Hope and granddaughter of Bessie, lead us through a series of introductions, songs, dances, questions to ask and be asked, all ending with a hug train and a snack.
This might sound corny, embarrassing and pointless, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I got to know John and that he was a crop farmer all his life, never had more than a couple years of high school, and was of German descent. Then there was Nancy who had the best sense of humor, and Paul who was from Boston and did not like to dance, but loved to toboggan in the snow when he was a kid. Henry was a resident for only 2 months and was getting acclimated. He told me he loved to go sledding when he was a child and had grown up in Colorado. Henry has outlived all of his relatives and has no visitors. As I was directed through the program facilitated by Linda, I asked what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and he replied that he did not have one. I decided to improvise and ask what would he like to get this Christmas and he said that he did not want anything. I asked, “What is your favorite food?” Henry’s face lit up and he said without hesitation, “Chinese, chicken chow mien”.
I held hands, danced, sang and gave hugs to all under the guise of doing something nice for others, but the reality is that they did something wonderful for me.
It is a challenge to raise money for senior focused charities in the US. Senior causes do not look sexy, evoke cute, warm and fuzzy emotions, nor do they generate the public awareness that a natural disaster does. Charitable giving dollars go primarily to religious organizations, education and human services. Children’s charities have mass appeal to the general public, especially during the November/December holidays.
Let’s start to raise awareness about the charitable organizations who serve older adults from all over this country. Post your favorite senior focused charity from your area.
No one should be lonely, feel unloved, hungry, homeless or without proper medical care. Our seniors deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. Consider taking one hour of your time and go visit an older adult who might not have any visitors. With their permission, take their hand, look into their eyes, ask them their name and then tell them yours. The rest is magic.
I think getting some Chinese food to go is in my future and Henry’s!
Judy Rough, CSA
Certified Senior Advisor
Board Member, Bessie’s Hope
December 16, 2014
Blog posting courtesy of Judy Rough, CSA
Provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors