From grandparents to elders in the community, you likely know several people who are 75 or older. Many of the seniors you know have probably found ways to stay active and healthy in their later years, but some, especially grieving seniors, might seem to retreat and disconnect.
As more of their friends and family members die, seniors may feel lonely and overwhelmed by grief. Many seniors can even experience “compounded grief,” which is a result of experiencing multiple losses in a short time. This grief can weigh down the elderly, making each day more of a struggle.
Seniors might feel like the world around them is changing rapidly, which can leave them feeling depressed, isolated, and less motivated to engage in day-to-day activities. If you have a senior in your life who is showing signs of grief, here are 5 ways you can support them:
1. Assist with everyday tasks
Offering to help your senior friend in practical ways can be a huge help. For seniors, navigating everyday tasks can be challenging, especially when they’re dealing with grief or depression. By offering to help with small tasks, you’ll show them that you care about them and want to help. For example, you could drive them to doctor’s appointments, do some yard work, clean the house, cook a meal with them, or bring them groceries or their favorite treats.
As much as you want to help them, make sure you ask permission and respect their wishes. Many seniors want to live independent lives, so they may resist your attempts to help. Make sure they know that you’re trying to make their life easier, not trying to take away their independence when you offer to help.
2. Help them get involved in the community
Sometimes seniors feel lonely and forgotten, especially as more of their friends pass away. However, exploring their interests can help them connect with others. Many community centers, libraries, churches, or local clubs host monthly or weekly groups. With book clubs, gardening groups, crafting sessions, and even virtual groups, there are plenty of ways for seniors to dive into a hobby or project. Best of all, they can make new friends along the way.
Additionally, seniors might find it fulfilling to volunteer in the community. Donating their time, money, or items can remind them that they can still make an impact. For example, seniors could volunteer at animal shelters, community gardens, food banks, or school fundraisers. And, if you volunteer alongside them, you’ll build up your relationship while supporting the community together.
3. Spend time with them
As seniors begin losing their friends, they can feel like they’re all alone. By spending time with them, you can help them feel less lonely. You could cook together, play board games or cards, or sit and talk. You could even take them out for a day on the town to go shopping or get lunch. As you strengthen your relationship with them, your presence will help reassure them that they still matter to you.
Even more importantly, take time to listen to them. Listening shows that you’re interested in someone and care about their life and experiences. Whether your senior friend wants to talk about the grief they experience or reminisce about times gone by, you can make them feel secure and validate their feelings. Listening to a senior can also benefit you; you might hear a new story or learn from their wisdom and experience.
4. Include them in family events
Whether the senior you want to help is a family member or a friend, including them in family events can help them feel like a part of something. Plus, if you have young children or teenagers, spending time with the elderly can have a positive impact on their lives. There are plenty of ways to involve a senior. You could bring the kids around for a visit, host a game or movie night, or invite them to a family dinner, your child’s sports game, or a school play.
Inviting your elderly friend or family member to join your family during the holidays can have an even greater impact. The holidays can be a heavy reminder of the people a grieving senior has lost, but surrounding them with love and care can help them find joy in the season.
5. Encourage them to find outside support
While some seniors might dislike the idea of counseling, support groups and therapy are beneficial for people who have experienced loss. Outside support can help grieving seniors process their emotions, especially if they’re dealing with compounded grief from multiple losses. Plus, hearing from others about their struggles can remind seniors that they’re not alone.
Some seniors might resist your attempts to help them at first. Be respectful of their boundaries, but also remind them that you care about them and you’re there to support them. Whether you’re seeking to help a parent, a grandparent, or an elderly friend, you can take small steps to include them in your life. While a senior might feel overwhelmed by their grief, knowing that you’re there to help and truly want what’s best for them will bring them comfort.