Older people are everywhere—shopping at the grocery store, volunteering at your school, and walking in the park. Some seniors live on their own, and others live in places that help care for them. You can help them and learn from them, too. Here are some ways ZOOMers like you are volunteering:
- Ellie of Massachusetts and her sixth grade class visit a nursing home once a month and do ZOOM activities with the people who live there.
- Every month, LJ of Oregon brings his poodle along when he visits people at a senior center.
- Marina of Massachusetts dressed up like a reindeer and delivered homemade cards to her great-grandmother and other people who live at a nursing home.
- Make some Sponge Stationery and write notes to people at a nursing home.
- Make Button Flowers to deliver to an elderly neighbor.
- Play Nim or another ZOOMgame with people at a nursing home.
- Cook dinner for an elderly relative. Visit CafeZOOM for recipe ideas.
Jennifer and her Girl Guide troop (that's what they call Girl Scouts in Canada) delivered cards to seniors at a nursing home. They had so much fun that they decided to adopt a grandfriend, who they visit and spend time with.
Here's how you can adopt a grandfriend:
- Find an elderly person to adopt. Ask an adult to help you choose a person. You may already know of an elderly person in your neighborhood who would like a visitor. If not, you can call a local senior center or nursing home. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Nursing Homes" or "Senior Citizens' Service Organizations" for places.
- Ask an adult to help you contact the nursing home. Explain that you want to adopt a grandfriend to visit on a regular basis. Ask lots of questions, like: Are there any training sessions you need to attend before you volunteer? Who will you will be paired with? When is a good time to visit? How often you should come? How long should you stay? Is it OK to bring cookies, flowers, and other small things?
- Plan your first visit. Think about what you want to talk about when you visit your grandfriend. You can talk about what grade you are in, what you do after school, and about your family. You can ask your new grandfriend questions, like: What did you like best about school? Do you have any grandchildren? How was the world different when you were my age?
- Make a memory box. A memory box is a small collection of some of your favorite things. You can fill a shoebox with things like a favorite toy, an award you have won, or a card from a friend. Sharing your memory box with your grandfriend will give you things to talk about on your first visit. Ask what your grandfriend would put in a memory box, if he or she were to make one.
- Bring a parent or other adult when you visit because most senior centers don't allow kids under the age of 16 to volunteer alone.
- Think about it:
- Who did your project help?
- What did you see and hear during the project?
- How did this project make you feel?
- What did you learn that you did not know before?
- What new questions or ideas do you have?
- Is there anything you would do differently the next time?
- Celebrate! Thank everyone who helped you. And remember to log your hours and share your story.
- Keep helping. Visit your grandfriend on a regular basis. Set up a schedule so he or she can look forward to your visits. Bring flowers, cookies, or a ZOOMdo. Play cards or a ZOOMgame. Find out when your grandfriend's birthday is and what holidays he or she celebrates, so you can make a card or bake a special treat. You will learn many new things from your grandfriend. Thank her or him for spending time with you.
Help the Aged
Hector, the cartoon puppy, will teach you about why elderly people are an important part of our community.
How Old Is Old?
Interview an older person and create a picture journal about his or her memories.
By Devora Kaye & Gabi Roussos
ABCD Books (www.abcdbooks.org)
Two middle school students wrote this book while they were volunteering with people who have memory loss. With one topic for every letter of the alphabet, this book will give you plenty to talk about!
How Does It Feel to Be Old?
By Norma Farber
Creative Arts Book Company
A grandmother tells her granddaughter about what it is like to grow old.
By Eve Bunting
Timmie is nervous about visiting his grandmother for the first time at her new nursing home.
The War with Grandpa
By Robert Kimmel Smith
Peter has to give up his room when his grandfather moves in. At first Peter is very upset, but he comes to understand the importance of family.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
By Mem Fox
Wilfred helps his friend Miss Nancy, who is losing her memory, by making her a memory box.
Find places that help seniors by looking in the Yellow Pages under these headings:
- Nursing Homes
- Senior Citizens' Service Organizations
Call your Volunteer Center. This is a place that can help you find volunteer projects. To find a Volunteer Center near you, visit this Web site or call 1-800-VOLUNTEER. Ask an adult to help you call. Tell them your age and ask if there are ways that you can help seniors.