For thousands of years, ever since the agricultural revolution allowed people to stay in one place, parents and grandparents lived with children as they got older. This trend remains in many parts of China and other countries.
In America, though, nursing homes are the go-to for many families. Like many modern things, nursing homes are more recent inventions than you may think. They rose in popularity in the 17th century in the form of almshouses which served seniors and orphans plus the mentally and physically disabled. These narrowed down to contemporary assisted living facilities in time.
One negative factor to having so many American seniors in homes is they live at a distance from friends and family. Some residents feel an acute sense of loneliness, as if loved ones cast them aside. That’s why you and I—perhaps people without personal ties to a nursing home—can make a difference by volunteering. To learn why you should volunteer at a nursing home, consider these reasons.
For the Residents
Let’s start with the most obvious reason—serving improves the lives of the seniors you contact. Your conversations with them brighten their days and keep the silence that creeps in sometimes at bay. The fact that you give your time communicates their value in your eyes, too.
For Your Well-Being (and the Staff’s)
The second reason why you should volunteer at a nursing home is for your well-being and the staff’s. Doing something good for a vulnerable senior has incalculable benefits for your frame of mind. It calms you and allows you to reset as you engage in purposeful work.
At the same time, your volunteering affords overworked staff a rest. Throughout the pandemic, short-staffed nursing home employees took on a whole new set of stressors as they strived to keep people healthy. As the pandemic continues, they need a break. Assuming nursing homes allow some degree of volunteer work (with proper screening, temperature checks, social distancing, and masks), jumping in promotes workers’ longevity in their tough roles.
To Train Up a Child
For those with kids, nursing home volunteer work is an opportunity to grow their ever-forming characters. Many kids grow up isolated from people unlike them, but imagine how instinctive do-gooding could become as you give back to the community with them like this. Of all the lessons you want to teach them, empathy through volunteering is one of the most valuable.
If you’re wondering whether a nursing home allows in-person volunteers, call them up. If they don’t, you can send residents handmade cards or consider other creative ways of giving back. If they do allow volunteers to come in, follow their regulations and never go if you’re feeling at all sick. And, while you’re there, maintain a generous distance, wear a mask, and try to serve outside where germ exposure is less likely.