Typically we think of orphans as children who have lost both parents and have no one to care for them. At this time of the year we are bombarded with requests from various charities for donations of either money or presents. Making a donation usually gives us a warm, happy feeling that we have helped a child have a brighter day. In addition to the typical definition of orphans, today we have a growing population of Elder Orphans.
Elder Orphans are adults who have outlived their care support system and have no immediate family or friends to help care for them or to make important decisions about their care and wellbeing. They are our elderly neighbors who live alone; the one we see at the mail box; wave to as we drive by; and watch them struggle bringing in their groceries. They have no one person or agent that stops in to check on them. Most often they are lonely, depressed and often poorly nourished. These are the Elder that tend to fall through the bureaucratic cracks – too proud to ask for assistance until it is an emergency.
I know we all mean to check in on our elderly neighbor, but things always seem to get in the way; work, children, and our own elderly loved ones. Even at this time of year we buy a gift for a child but we do not think of buying or making something for our elderly neighbor. We may not realize what our neighbor’s circumstances are. We do not want to pry or be a ‘noisy neighbor’ so we do not know that your neighbor has no living friends or relatives left in their lives. They are what are now being referred to as Elder Orphans.
Do we have a neighbor or a former neighbor, who may be alone at home, in an assisted living community or nursing home? Sure we do! Now is the time to start being neighborly. Knock on the door with a plate of cookies or a bowl of hot soup on a cold day and wish them Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah! Your visit will make their day! Make this small gesture a habit and stop by to say hello, you do not need to bring food or something every time – but it would be nice.
I am not telling you to stop buying that extra gift for a child in need but I am suggesting that adding an elderly, lonely neighbor to your list also. You will have a warm, satisfying feeling each time you visit, and your kindness will give your neighbor ten times more pleasure than you are feeling. Try it, it feels good!