Every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, when the holiday decorations are up and the rush to shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals is over, people across the nation and globe set their sights on giving back to charities in their communities.
This tradition, aptly named the National Day of Giving or Giving Tuesday, was started nine years ago by the 92nd Street Y in New York in partnership with the United Nations Foundation. It has since become a global movement, with people all over the world donating their time, talents or money, all on the same day, to local charities meaningful to them.
This year, with so many charities to choose from, why not give back by doing something special for the older adults and caregivers in your life. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry. We have lots of ideas for you:
- Make a donation, in their name, to their favorite charity. If you’re not sure what it is, give them a call and ask. It will brighten their day.
- Partner with a local school, scouting troop or church to write and deliver holiday cards to older adults at care communities in your area.
- Contact your local senior center to be a Santa for a senior and fulfill their Christmas wish list or organize a gift drive for everyone at the center.
- Make a gratitude jar. Ask family, friends and loved ones to write down why they’re grateful to have this person in their lives, put the notes in a decorative container and give it to them at Christmas.
Spending time with an older adult is a gift in itself. Schedule a visit and engage them in conversation. Ask about their favorite holiday traditions or memories (older adults love to reminisce about the past), or do an activity together:
- Teach them something new, like how to search the internet or communicate with their grandchildren via text, email or FaceTime.
- Do a puzzle.
- Make a holiday craft/decoration.
- Look at photo albums and talk about old times.
If you feel like you don’t have any talents to share, read to them—but keep it short so you don’t lose their interest. Syndicated advice columnist Amy Dickinson’s “Ask Amy” column in the Chicago Tribune has Dickinson answering a variety of difficult and often relatable questions from readers. Read each question out loud and ask them what their reply would be, before reading Dickinson’s answer.
If that’s not enough to make them smile, read a funny joke, a beautiful poem or a warmhearted story from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, which is available for free when you sign up for the email newsletter. For inspiration, visit your local library and check out Jerry Seinfeld’s “Is this Anything?,” a book of jokes spanning from the early days of his career until now. Another delightful pick is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s compilation of her mother Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s favorite poems, “She Walks in Beauty: A woman’s journey through poems.”
Another good idea? Make their lives easier by taking away some household chores:
- Cook a nice meal.
- Stock their freezer with single servings of homemade dishes or hearty soups.
- Dust, vacuum, declutter, do laundry or other light cleaning.
Caregivers can use a break, too. Give the gift of time to a fellow caregiver:
- Visit with their care recipients for an hour or two so they can catch up on chores, go for a walk or simply relax.
- Bring lunch for everyone.
- Run errands for them, such as fill their car with gas or pick up groceries.
- Take out the trash.
To spread kindness, all it takes is a little thought and effort. On this special day and always, find inspiration from the words of late poet Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” and do something to make the older adults in your life feel happy and, most of all, loved.