These days older adults are often overlooked and don’t receive the respect they deserve. Many are also experiencing loneliness more than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic and living alone without family or friends nearby.
Meals on Wheels America, however, is hoping to raise awareness of the importance of honoring seniors nationwide and garner support for America’s aging population with a new campaign called #RespectYourElders launched this month.
“Our hope is that people will be inspired by the campaign to connect with the seniors in their own lives, from family and friends to neighbors,” said Susan Waldman, chief marketing and communications officer with Meals On Wheels America, the national organization supporting more than 5,000 community-based programs dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation.
Here’s everything you need to know about the campaign and how you can get involved.
What is the #RespectYourElders campaign?
Waldman said the #RespectYourElders campaign is a social media challenge focused on sharing heartwarming videos or photos that raise up the stories, smiles and charming personalities of meaningful elders in people’s lives.
“Right now, our seniors are lonelier than ever. Millions are homebound and living by themselves,” she said. “We all have the power to help change that, which is why we created this campaign over the past few months and launched it this August.”
The campaign has already collected various expressions of appreciation and words of wisdom from their loved ones along with pictures and videos—including submissions from NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson; actors Lily Tomlin, Danny Burstein and Ramona Young; and singers like Lance Bass and Coffey Anderson.
Stefan Jones, a student at the University of California, Irvine, also decided to get involved. He posted a picture of his great aunt on Twitter and shared that it was his first time meeting her. In the Twitter post, he commented, “She’s the oldest living Greer on my dad’s side, and I learned so much about my family history from her.”
He said that participating in this campaign is all about expressing gratitude and reminding members of the Gen Z and Millennial generations and others that our elders should still have a level of significance in our lives.
“This campaign should serve as a moment of reflection on our loved ones that came before us and pave the way for us to have all the experiences and privileges we have today,” he said.
Spreading encouragement and sharing wisdom
Waldman said the purpose of having a campaign like #RespectYourElders is to show seniors they’re valued, as well as to encourage people to spend time with their loved ones, learn from them, and spread the wisdom and stories they share with others—while also doing what they can to nourish the lives of these older adults and to let them know they’re not alone.
Rachel Jordan, communications manager at the nonprofit Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness, said that many people often underestimate how the unique life events that occur as we age contribute to social isolation and loneliness. For example, many seniors live alone, and as research shows, nearly a third of people who live alone go the majority of their day – or even the whole day – without having human contact.
“This campaign seeks to remedy this marginalization and reduce seniors’ social isolation and loneliness by promoting national awareness of this crisis and inspiring people to volunteer and interact more with seniors,” Jordan said.
In addition, she shared that based on a 2020 study, 24% of seniors are considered to be socially isolated and 43% report feeling lonely. The research also shows there’s a 50% increased risk they will develop dementia, a 68% increased risk of being hospitalized, a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits, and a 32% increased risk of having a stroke.
“They are also more likely to develop chronic medical conditions and die prematurely,” Jordan said. “This important campaign hopes to raise the visibility of these negative impacts, which is often the first step in solutioning for change.”
How can I participate and get involved?
If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved with the #RespectYourElders campaign, here are some simple ways to get started:
Take to social media – With any social media account (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram), use the hashtag #RespectYourElders and tell your followers all about a senior who’s important to you and encourage them to do the same. People can share a photo or video of them talking about a special memory with their loved one. The more people who participate in the social media challenge, the more potential it has to keep growing and gaining attention.
Spending time with your loved one – Another way to participate in the campaign is by doing acts of kindness for seniors, like helping to carry their groceries or inviting them to join you for errands and other everyday activities. You can also spend time with your loved one by playing games or cooking together, sharing memories, making a family tree or art, listening to music, watching movies or going on a walk. If you can’t get to them in person, even a quick hello over the phone lets them know you’re thinking about them.
“Through this campaign, we’re hoping to remind people of how much we gain from spending time with our elders and how much they need us,” Waldman said. “In turn, we hope to see more Americans doing their part by visiting the seniors in their own lives more often.”
Learn more information about the campaign and get involved at www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/respect.