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This month we’ve been talking about loneliness here on the blog. From grandparents babysitting to things to do to beat the isolation factor, we’ve come across some great projects and community efforts.

It’s not unusual for people to feel lonely when surrounded by others, although the feeling might be temporary. Feelings of loneliness get compounded when someone is isolated, feels unloved, or unlovable.

Quote on loneliness by Anais Nin. I am lonely yet not everybody will do.. I don't know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.

The reality is that loneliness can’t simply be eliminated by increasing social activities, or by sharing expressions of love with someone you know is lonely. Some people carry a past that is peppered with lonely periods, and others have been lonely repeatedly. And let’s be honest, there are people who are tough to be around, even when we feel like we could offer them some company.

This week, we found an interesting project by Marissa Korda, a Canadian writer who launched The Loneliness Project. You can read poignant, heart warming, and gut wrenching stories there, and if you feel alone and isolated right now, it might offer you some solace to see that there are others who share your circumstances. (Added bonus: and the design and function of her site are stunning, so check it out!).

Quote by Douglas Coupland. Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life's cruelest irony.

Are we responsible for helping others to feel included, cherished, and loved? That’s a tough question. The easy answer is that we are not and cannot be held responsible for someone else’s happiness. We are each responsible for ourselves. However, there are people and programs designed to help, and they are worth checking out if you’d like to get included, involved, and maybe have some fun (I love the stories about the chickens, and the students who serve lunch!).

We don’t have all the answers, but we do hope that this month’s series on building community and combating loneliness have provided some food for thought. We also hope that celebrating great ideas like this will help make our communities good places to be.

Get busy!

While writing this month’s blogs we came across some great quotes on loneliness. We’re leaving some here for you, and will share them on our Facebook page. If you feel like they are something you’d like to share, please do so.

We’re looking for examples of seniors being connected to their communities. It’s a simple concept, and the motivation behind it is that people who live in seniors’ residences can sometimes find themselves shut in, or at the very least, disconnected from their previous neighbourhood. The problem gets compounded when they aren’t able to drive or have trouble with mobility and can’t take a bus, or afford a cab.

Photo of jam and cookies

 

A fun, healthy business where you can learn how to make your own meals, or simply go in and purchase healthy, pre-made meals, is Simply Supper. Have you been to their kitchens yet? Did you know they also do classes on location in two kitchens in Edmonton? Plus, they will also do classes for special occasions, groups, etc. that you set up. I spoke with Monita, the owner, and she said that things are very busy in their kitchens because people are committed to eating right, even when they are too busy to cook. Check out the fab reviews on their Facebook page, here.

Have you noticed the Fresh Express Bus in your neighbourhood yet? This is a service started by Andrew Lineker, in Edmonton. Mr. Lineker’s background includes working at farmers’ markets, and now he is bringing the markets to neighbourhoods and communities on a bus. The company was featured recently on CTV News Edmonton, and the reviews from customers are ecstatic! The bus has stops all over the city, with plans for a larger fleet in the works. Check out the video here.

Making Something Old New Again

Having groceries delivered might seem novel, and I chuckle since that’s how people used to get a lot of their groceries around here. Some of the newer options are great, though, including green box and organic box deliveries, or meal kits in a box that you can put together in a hurry, or even click and collect at the big grocery chains. Look around for what’s available near you.

Some of the boxed meals are designed for a minimum of two people, and if you’re single you’ll have to be prepared for leftovers or invite a friend over. Simply Supper also offers a single serving option, and other options are handy where they offer delivery to your home or work, or a handy pick up spot.

So Many Options

Community kitchens, travelling markets, and grocery delivery are all terrific options for healthy eating, and for gathering with others. The sense of belonging that comes from joining friends at the table can’t be beat, and if you prefer to eat on your own, shopping at businesses like these can help you keep connected, and full of healthy grub.

A big problem for seniors is that of loneliness. We’ve written this article to help seniors, their families, and professional caregivers to help create healthy, active lives that fight  loneliness.

You may have connected with organizations that will help you help others. If you’re not connected, have a look for local agencies in your city by Googling the name of your city and adding the term “seniors association” to find local support. You can also speak with a social worker, staff in your doctor’s office, and checkout the Caregiver’s Association of Alberta.

Some folks enjoy time to themselves, and they may not feel lonely. Being lonely is about a sense of isolation that can bring on feelings of sadness, decreased appetite, and contribute to people closing themselves off even more. The list here are some practical things you can do to help fight loneliness for people you care for, including your parents, grandparents, neighbours, and yourself.

Start talking

If you’re going to visit someone you don’t know that well and find it awkward, create a list of conversation starters. Although this idea may sound silly, it really works because you’ll always have something to talk about! Avoid topics that you know are hot buttons for the other person. Ask open questions so that you don’t accidentally kill the conversation or make it awkward. Since loneliness can be worse if someone spends a lot of time living in the past, it’s important to try and learn about the person while encouraging them to appreciate the present. For example, if they loved playing football and you know of a high school or university football team in the area, you could find out when the next game is and go watch it together.

  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? (Great discussion starter)
  • What’s your favourite lunchtime snack? (You could make lunch together)
  • What kind of reading / shows do you enjoy? (How about a trip to the library?)
  • Who were your friends when you were growing up? (More great discussions)
  • What were your favourite activities / sports at school? (A great way to connect with activities of interest in the community)

Get out of the house

If mobility is not a challenge, offer to take someone out for a fancy tea or coffee and get them out of their home. There are lots of independent places, or you could visit a big chain. Stopping at a local park and taking in an outdoor exercise class for seniors, or having some fun with an activity reminds people what is happening in the community.

If mobility is a challenge, bring a fancy drink to them or bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it together. Sharing pictures from your laptop or a tablet can help bring the outside to someone who is confined indoors.

Help the kids

If your kids are shy or find it awkward to go visiting with you, help them out by giving them a list of conversation starters, too. They might be fascinated by some topic but find it hard to ask about something and you can help them out. You can also take a game that’s kid and family friendly that everyone can play – cards, board games, and puzzles (get the right sized pieces for your crowd) are often a hit. If you don’t have any games handy, you can often pick them up inexpensively at Value Village or borrow them from the library. Get creative with this, and don’t think you have to stick with old fashioned games. Modern card games for older kids and adults like Mad Gab, or Cards Against Humanity, are a hoot.

wooden game pieces with cute wigs and faces painted

Take a class together

With great little businesses like Clay and Cupcakes, Plant Nite, and Paint Nite available, plenty of fun can be had in stress free, short, creativity based outings. Of course, there are always longer classes to commit to, and seniors love classes that are short one-time events (like a how-to class on computers, for example), and longer series of classes, too. If you know of a group of seniors who share interest in a topic, you can even bring the instructor to them to make things easier to coordinate.

Do something

If you know a senior who is lonely, speak with them about what they want to do. They may need just a little help, or a few ideas. They might want to do something that makes them feel appreciated, or needed, or valuable. They may want to do something that offers a distraction, or do something creative, or perhaps they really need some medical help and are afraid to ask. If you can’t help them get what they’re after, get their permission to speak with a social worker, health care provider, and whomever else you need to. Regular social visits, activities, and outings can make a huge difference in people’s lives, replacing loneliness with purpose and motivation.

At Elder Move Inc. we help seniors to downsize, organize, and relocate. We’re specialists at making sure that your home is the place where you feel comfortable, safe, and content. If you’re interested in getting some help and you’re in the Edmonton, AB, complete the contact form and get in touch!

 

 

There’s a story that has resurfaced about how babysitting is good for grandparents. It’s a catchy headline to explain a study from 2014 that demonstrated how people who were around their grandkids had better cognitive scores and were able to prevent or delay the onset of dementia (although childminding for 5 days or more a week led to lower results).

Two grandparents with two young children

The results make sense, even though this study was conducted on a tiny sample of people. Seniors who don’t see their families much tell us how lonely they are. Sometimes a senior ends up spending a lot of time alone because they are a widow, divorced, their kids have moved away, and there are plenty of seniors who never had children. Anyone can be lonely, even if they are surrounded by people.

About the grandkids

If you’ve got grandkids and they are close to you, do invite them over. Have some games or activities that they can participate in so they get to know you, and they aren’t left getting bored while the adults do all the talking. Go see their concerts at school, be a cheerleader at their sports events, and take an interest in what they are doing. If you learn about some pop culture, you’ll have lots of avenues to connect with them.

Lots of grandparents live a long way away from their grandkids, but these days it’s easy to connect by phone, FaceTime, and all kinds of technology. Kids still love getting a card or note in the mail too.

Of course, there are other things you can do to keep busy, and social.

Plan some events

Create an excuse to get out! Rent a social room in your building, or book space at a café or restaurant in the neighbourhood. People love to connect around food and even if no one wants to cook, it’s very convenient to pick up ready to serve food at a local deli or have it catered. Create a simple theme for your event (an unbirthday party, or an unretirement event, or host a paint nite), and make something happen.

Join a club or create your own

If you belonged to clubs or associations before now, this is probably easy for you. Find a club that interests you and get started. If you’ve never been a joiner, think of this as an opportunity to do something new and exciting. You can start small and attend one off events instead of committing to something for a long period of time. Attend a feast at the local seniors’ centre or legion; volunteer to collect tickets at a festival; check out a walking or exercise club. If those ideas don’t sound interesting, keep exploring until you find something that clicks. To get some more ideas, check out Meetup to see what’s in your local area.

Go back to school

Hanging around kids can be a great way to pick up on their infectious laughter and zest for life. Most schools have a formal process for their volunteers, including setting up a schedule, vulnerable sector screenings, and so on. They are also notoriously short staffed, so go to your local school and see what kind of help you can provide. If you love to read or have a flair for dramatic voices, you could read stories during reading week. At the beginning of a school year, little ones need help putting on their shoes at recess, and extra hands are welcome for hot lunch days. Figure out what you are good at, and help with that.

Get to the hospital

Have you heard of these programs for volunteers to manage a coffee and water trolly to take around to hospital visitors, or cuddle babies in the NICU? If you’re in good health and enjoy the long walks of hospital corridors, being a volunteer at the hospital could be a great way to help others. Hospitals are another place that can be notoriously short staffed and very appreciative of their volunteers.

Leverage the internet

Maybe you don’t like getting out, or your mobility is limited. If that’s the case, jump on the bandwagon and explore the internet! Lots of seniors are connecting in meaningful ways by leveraging the digital age. If you’re not computer savvy, take a class! Always be smart about protecting your personal information, and make sure you learn how to avoid getting scammed. Connect in online groups where you can meet other seniors and chat about what’s on your mind, find things to do in the community, play online games that help keep you sharp, and so much more.

Be conscious about avoiding loneliness

Getting lonely can happen very quickly. Lonely people can even feel isolated when surrounded by others if no one is connecting in a meaningful way. Make a choice to foster some great connections, and if you sometimes find it hard, remind yourself that stopping yourself from feeling lonely is something that you can do. It might feel hard at times, but the best things sometimes are.

At Elder Move Inc. we help seniors to downsize, organize, and relocate. We’re specialists at making sure that your home is the place where you feel comfortable, safe, and content. If you’re interested in getting some help and you’re in the Edmonton, AB, complete the contact form and get in touch!

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