The forgotten elderly

The Forgotten Elderly

Think of a time in life when you felt the most alone and just meditate for a moment on that feeling… I bet it is a terrible burden to remember that time. You probably felt sadness and hopelessness and wished someone could just share a smile with you and be your friend. Among the elderly population, loneliness is common and my heart has been touched by this problem.

There are a number of factors that contribute to isolation among the elderly, but I feel that the worldwide epidemic of disconnectedness among people is the primary one. We lead busy lives, stretched between jobs and families and carving out time for hobbies. It’s hard to find time for it all and we are constantly thinking about the next thing on our ‘to do’ list. This tunnel vision absorbs us and it’s easy to be unaware when someone around us is in need.

In my own loneliest moments I have a desperate need for a hug and a pat on the back and someone to tell me “I hope things get better” and “I care about you”. The need for comfort and friendship is one of the most basic. I hate to think of anyone being friendless, but that is what so many elderly face.

A group I recently discovered on Facebook offers the opportunity for people to reach out to the elderly by sending letters, cards or small trinkets to lonely and isolated seniors in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospices, long term care facilities and similar types of care settings. The group is called The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly. They give a listing of addresses of facilities whose staff have advised them directly that they have residents who would love to receive letters and cards telling them that they are special and are being thought of with love and care.

I recently sent a few batches of what I call “kindness cards” to some nursing facilities for the first time. They were batches of a dozen lovely notecards with cheerful handwritten messages inside. I addressed the packages to the “Activities Director” and because I included my email address in a note inside, I received an email from the first nursing home I sent cards to.  The email I received was from Sara and her email was immensely touching. The message read, in part:

“Each one [of the cards] will bring a smile to the residents’ faces and it’s a reward for me too!  I love seeing them smile when they feel like no one thinks of them….  I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to make and send these cards…  It’s a rainy and gloomy Monday so these cards came at the best time!!!  Thank you again for thinking of us.”

This way of reaching out to the elderly to share friendship and kindness speaks to my heart because it is a very easy way to spread goodness to people. I can purchase note cards in quantity very cheaply or I can make them myself at home. Each handwritten note only takes a moment to write. And the 2 or 3 dollars I spend to ship a box of cards is super affordable, especially considering the pleasure with which the cards will be received.

I encourage you to visit the Facebook page for The Forgotten Ones and find a facility to send a few cards to. There are many lovely senior citizens who would be thrilled to hear from you and feel for a moment that they are not alone and that someone truly cares about them.

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Images courtesy of (under open use license) and Celestine Chua (under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0).