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In sorting through a box of old family pictures, my mom came across a couple letters I’d sent to my grandmother. One envelope contained a dime, a button-style pin, and a brightly-colored marker-drawn picture of a house complete with a leafy tree and yellow sun. The other envelope contained a piece of paper torn from a steno pad with every line filled with a series of curly-cue “cursive” writing. (And I’ve since been embarrassingly reminded of a later missive where I complained that my parents were too busy to even put medicine on a wart on my hand.)

A few thoughts on the correspondence: One, I was destined to be a writer from a very young age! Two, my grandmother treasured the letters enough that she held onto them for years.

The past couple of weeks, we’ve looked at expanding our self-centered worlds to touch others like a tree stretches out its branches to offer fruit and shade. This week, the focus is finding ways to reach out to those nearing the sunset of life.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Pick up a pen. If you have older family members, write a letter. Share a bit of your life. A funny story. A stressful situation. Send a child’s picture or drawing. Ask them for a favorite story or nugget of wisdom. Let them know they aren’t forgotten.
  • Adopt a grandparent. If you live far away from your extended family (or your family members have already passed away), adopt someone closer to home. Visit. Bake cookies. Celebrate holidays together.
  • Visit a retirement, assisted living, or nursing home. Call ahead and talk to the activity director to see what volunteer opportunities and/or restrictions they have in place. Offer chances for mental stimulation. Host a dance or holiday celebration. Join in on bingo or card games. Record oral histories. Write letters on their behalf. Give manicures.
  • Wield a snow shovel, rake, or lawnmower. Do you have a senior citizen living in your neighborhood? Clear their sidewalks after a storm. Rake up the fallen leaves. Fertilize the lawn and mow the grass. Plant a few flowers. Let them enjoy a beautiful yard without all the worries.
  • Link up with a local organization like Visiting Angels or The Foundation for Senior Living. These groups are organizations that provide non-medical home care for seniors. They can prepare meals, do light housekeeping, run errands, do small home repairs, or simply stay for a visit while caregivers get a break. (In fact, you may already know of someone who could use support like this. Why not approach them directly and offer your help?). Some seniors need special home care. You can help to find special institution that supports a person with daily living (check out homecaring.com.au to learn more).

The grandmother I once wrote letters to passed away eight years ago. However, I am blessed to still have one living grandparent and am convicted once again about how long it’s been since I’ve written even a simple email. Guess what’s on my to-do list?

What about you? What ideas would you add to the list? Are you on the giving or receiving end? What meant the most to you?