During a pandemic, the elderly and persons with disabilities are often at the greatest risk. To protect themselves, they may become isolated and unable to access basic services or meet their daily needs for food and supplies. Isolation and loneliness have negative impacts on overall health and wellness. If you feel safe offering assistance, there are three areas in which you can volunteer.
Delivering Meals or Groceries
Organizations that deliver food to the needy include Meals on Wheels and Feeding America. Contact local service agencies as well as the large national ones to see if they need drivers willing to bring food and groceries to needy isolated persons.
If you live in an area not served by any of these agencies, you can use social media to let people know that you are willing to shop for and deliver groceries, or run other errands such as picking up and delivering prescription medications.
Help older family members or elderly community members stay up to date with information and keep connected with loved ones through technology. Sometimes the easiest way is to phone and talk the person through how to use their existing electronic tools, including smart phones.
Consider writing (or making a video) and sharing tutorials for downloading ebooks or audio recordings from the local library collection, or directions for emailing or for downloading a podcast. Create step-by-step written instructions for using video conferencing tools.
Remember to include tips for safe experiences online. Seniors and the disabled are frequent targets of online scammers.
If you are unsure how to start creating these educational materials, check out the free materials provided by Generations on Line.
Loneliness has large impacts on health, and is increased during times of enforced isolation. Check with local civic organizations and churches to see if they can match you with a person who would benefit from a regular phone call “just to check in.”
For a good list of potential discussion topics for talking with seniors, please look here: https://www.griswoldhomecare.com/blog/senior-conversation-starters-discussion-topics-for-elderly-adults/
If you feel too shy to volunteer in this way, consider sharpening your interpersonal skills. Here is a helpful list of tips on how to engage in small talk: https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinapark/2015/03/30/an-introverts-guide-to-small-talk-eight-painless-tips/#74f0b662574a
Volunteering helps others, but helping others also benefits you. You will be less likely to feel depressed and will experience increased overall well-being. Where can you volunteer safely?