Groups Make Sure Seniors Not Forgotten During Holidays

For some people, the holidays truly are the most wonderful time of year. For others, they can be very depressing.

This is true at almost every stage of adulthood. And for older folks, the depression they feel around the holidays is often linked to isolation.

There are a number of factors involved in these feelings. Lack of mobility is one. Sometimes their families do not include them in holiday gatherings.

For others, many of their siblings and longtime friends have passed on. They feel even lonelier during the holidays than normally.

Senior Companions Step Up

Fortunately, there are people out there who understand these feelings. And who want to do something to make seniors feel better this time of year.

In South Dakota, for example, a group called Senior Companions of South Dakota steps up to help.

This group matches volunteers with people over age 55 who require in-home assistance and respite care.

Senior Companions of South Dakota currently serves 60 individuals. More seniors are interested and will be served once the volunteer base grows.

Get Involved, Stay Involved

Kristin Fox is the group's director. She said that shorter days and colder temperatures in winter make isolation even worse for some seniors.

"It is a hard time for a lot of people, but especially with seniors who are perhaps isolated already," Fox said.

"So, I would suggest whatever it takes to get out and about, and continue being part of the community."

One way to do that is for seniors to volunteer themselves, assuming they are healthy enough to do so. Others are getting involved in group exercise classes and book clubs. And visiting libraries, museums and places of worship.

Being Family When Family Isn't There

The group's volunteers not only help fill a void in some seniors' lives. They also can help prevent or delay long-term care placement, according to Fox.

As well as increase seniors' ability to live independently. Seniors who have been served by the group reported reduced stress levels.

"Families are busy, and even if there is family nearby, it's hard to always be there for that loved one," Fox said.

"So, just knowing that their companion is coming to visit on Tuesday afternoons can really make a difference."

Be a Santa to a Senior

Another group that is reaching out to seniors this holiday season is based in Tampa, Florida.

It's called Be a Santa to a Senior. Seniors who might not otherwise receive a Christmas present write their gift requests on paper ornaments.

The ornaments are then hung on the branches of small Christmas trees inside local businesses.

Customers grab an ornament, purchase the requested gift and return it to the store for distribution to the appropriate person.

'They Are Loved'

Kristi Campbell has been a member of the group for the past 13 years. Here's what she has to say about it.

"We don't want them to feel they're not loved. So this is that gift that tells them they are loved.

"It's really pretty cool when you hear the positive impact and how much they have enjoyed their gift.

"One adult child was at a memory care center and said that was the first time she saw her mother smile in years, when she got her baby doll."

Businesses Are the Hubs

Among the Tampa businesses that participate in this program are Salon Lofts and Shapes Health Club.

Holly Munnererlyn is the owner of Salon Lofts. Here's what she says about the program.

"We have so many stylists here and so many clients coming through our door every day. This is the perfect spot for us to give back."

Mary Nash owns Shapes Health Club. She says, "It's a great thing to see people so happy. The members are so happy sharing their love with the community."

Santa Paws for Seniors

Nearly every senior appreciates Christmas presents for themselves. Some are even happier when they receive something for their pet.

That's why the Santa Paws for Seniors program was established. This group collects pet supplies for senior citizens in Taney County, Missouri.

Collecting these donations are a variety of local businesses. They include Taney County Animal Control and Friends of Taney County.

Also, Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society, Paws and Hands United, and Mochas and Meows. Plus Petco, Branson RecPlex and area veterinarians.

Pets Benefit From Donations

Among the donations are dog and cat food, litter, pet beds and clothes, toys, treats and blankets.

Sherry Simpson is the manager of Taney County Animal Control. She said, "When we heard requests were being made... we got together and decided as a group that this was something we all wanted to do.

"For a lot of seniors, these animals are their family. They will be able to give their animals something special for Christmas that they might necessarily not be able to get."

The donations are delivered to local senior centers for distribution to those with pets.

Do you know a senior who could use his or her spirits lifted this holiday season? I'm sure we could all think of at least one. Let's make a difference in their lives with a card, a gift or a visit.

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