The gift of your time: Connecting with isolated older adults during the holiday season

Ksimpson.livestrong Guest contributor: Krystal Stokes is the Communications & Public Relations Manager at Victoria Lifeline.

Victoria Lifeline helped kick off the 11th Annual Be A Santa to A Senior in November and we are proud to partner once again with this amazing holiday program. Recognizing that older adults often feel the sting of loneliness the most over the holidays, Home Instead Senior Care along with Victoria Lifeline and a number of community partners such as A&O: Support Services for Older Adults and Virgin Radio, come together in support of the Be A Santa program to provide gifts and a friendly visit to a senior in need.

Older adults are often the most isolated population over the holiday season. Victoria Lifeline has been helping seniors remain independent in their homes for the last 30 years and we have seen first-hand the effects of social isolation and poverty. Our volunteers are in the homes of older adults every day installing the Lifeline service and we hear the heartbreaking stories of loneliness and financial hardship. Our Subsidy Program was developed in response to that financial need and is based on the philosophy that anyone who needs our service should have access to a medical alarm, regardless of age, ability or income.

Older adults aged 65+ consistently rank family and friendship second only to health as the most important things in life.  Feeling connected makes us feel loved and valued and this in turn has a positive effect on our health. But with life comes inevitable change, and these transitions can be difficult for anyone.  Children leave the nest, loved ones & friends eventually pass away, leaving behind a void in a once full life.

And that is why we are grateful for the opportunity to give back through this wonderful program. The staff at Victoria Lifeline has been collecting gifts for a number of years and it’s our favorite tradition of the holiday season.  Our volunteers have even been in on the action and donated their time to pick up and deliver presents around the city. We’ve collected hundreds of gifts as a group and it’s always heartwarming to see the presents pile up around the tree in the office. Each year the gift requests are so simple, a pair of black socks, a word search puzzle, a set of pajamas or a box of chocolates.

I’ve been fortunate enough to deliver gifts in person to a few of the program participants. I brought my teenaged daughter along and we still fondly recall a wonderful lady we met a few years ago. She invited us in for a cup of tea and as we sat together she told us that she hasn’t had a visitor to her apartment in years and this will be one of her only Christmas gifts. As her eyes filled with tears (and ours did too) she thanked us with a hug. It was a reminder that the gift of your time is often more important than the gift itself. 

So as we approach the holiday season, take a moment to reach out to an older adult in your life and let them know they matter. There is so much value in learning from another person's life experience and older adults have so much to share. Their life, and yours, will be richer for it.

To find out how the Be A Santa To A Senior program works, visit their website.

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