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Connecting With The Elderly

By Angie Haley
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An Intentional Application of the Fruits of the Spirit

In today’s world of hectic schedules filled with a myriad of responsibilities, balancing or even adding to an already full life inundated with a full-time career, obligations at home, attending school, homework, soccer practice, dance recitals, piano lessons, church and volunteering, adding one more item to an abundant and extensive list of to do items can feel overwhelming. However, with the busyness this world heaps onto our plates, it is important to do goodness in the midst, and be intentional to connect with the elderly.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

– Galatians 6:10

Venturing toward, much less choosing to operate in the intentional can feel paralyzing. Regardless of those emotions the reality is, as believers, that is the charge. That is the call. That is the mission. To put the needs of others before ourselves. To relinquish our agenda and serve others who are in need. To let them know that they are valued, and that Christ loves them deeply.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

– Galatians 5: 22 – 23

Have you ever noticed that the fruits of the spirit require some form of action? Each quality and characteristic of the fruits asks us to move in the direction of that attribute and take action to fulfill it. With that in mind, it is important to express those fruits of the spirit when staying connected with loved ones who reside in an elderly care facility. How can one practically exhibit these fruits either in person or long-distance?

LOVE: (v) to hold dear: to cherish.

Do everything in love.

– I Corinthians 16:14
  1. Have a meal together: what better way to connect with your elderly loved ones than sharing a meal together. This act of love can be done either in person or over the phone.

Restaurant (in person): go to their favorite restaurant and pick up their preferred meal. Once you have arrived at their home, set the table with a lovely tablecloth and perhaps flowers as a centerpiece to give the effect of eating in a restaurant. In addition, play elegant music in the background to accompany the ambiance of a restaurant.

Restaurant (long distance): order a meal and have delivered. Once it arrives, connect with them either over the phone or FaceTime and eat together. If possible, coordinate with some of the staff who might be able to set up the table in a like manner as mentioned above.

Picnic (in person): a picnic might feel reminiscent of the good old days; therefore, enjoy a beautiful picnic together outside on the patio or on the lawn. If they are more comfortable in their room then set up a carpet picnic. Bring a blanket and spread it out on the lawn, floor or table. Purchase a lovely picnic basket at any discounted department store and fill it with an array of items from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to an elegant charcuterie tray. Be completely creative with what they might discover inside their basket. Perhaps add to the fun by playing music in the background on your phone or a portable speaker from the 40s, 50s or 60s to add to the environment. A little music can go a long way in connecting with the elderly.

Picnic (long distance): Purchase a picnic basket and mail it to your loved one. Fill it with non-perishable items such as crackers, nuts, beef logs or perhaps certain cheeses. Coordinate with the facility to let them know a package is on the way. Then, once it arrives, they can set it up and contact you on the phone to enjoy a picnic together.

JOY: (v) experience great delight

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”

– Philemon 1:7
  1. Visit them weekly or bi-weekly.
  2. If possible or applicable, visit with the grandchildren.
  3. Mail a handwritten note regardless if you reside in or out of town.
  4. Have grandchildren draw a picture and mail it or have them deliver it in person.
  5. Send or bring flowers.
  6. Smile often.
  7. Give them a hug.
  8. Tell them how much you love them.
  9. Tell them an attribute or characteristic you love about them.
  10. Sing a song together.
  11. Share a memory about them.
  12. Go on a walk around the grounds.
  13. If unable to walk, push them in their wheelchair around the grounds.
  14. Sit outside on a sunny day together and drink a cup of coffee or tea.
  15. Call them regularly and if possible, FaceTime.
  16. Celebrations: whenever you have an opportunity to celebrate capture it and build a memory. Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries are obvious; however, what about celebrating National Donut Day or National Hug Your Dog Day? Those silly holidays can bring great joy to your loved one.  https://nationaltoday.com/national-day-calendar/
  17. Organize a sing-along night by coordinating a group of students or individuals to play the piano and sing songs one evening.
  18. Organize a movie night. Provide a classic movie such as Gone with the Wind; Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, South Pacific, Funny Face, Swing Time, Casablanca, or Singing in the Rain. Complete the evening with popcorn, candy and drinks.

PEACE: (v) to be, become, quiet

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heats be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

– John 14:27
  1. Pray together either in person or over the phone. Make this a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly tradition so they have something to look forward to doing with you. It’s simple, and a great way to connect with them.
  2. Sing a hymn together. The classics are the best as it will probably remind them of their childhood.
    1. Amazing Grace
    1. How Great Thou Art
    1. This is My Story
  3. Read the Word with them.
  4. Have a Bible study together.
  5. Read a book.

PATIENCE: (adj) bearing trials calmly or without complaint

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”

– Ephesians 4:2
  1. Ask questions often to connect with them.
  2. Ask questions about their favorite childhood memories.
  3. Ask questions about their traditions.
  4. Ask questions about how they met their spouse.
  5. Ask questions about what they would do on weekends when they were young.
  6. Ask questions about what they would do in the summer when growing up.
  7. Ask questions about them and their life.
  8. LISTEN

KINDNESS: (n) quality or state of being kind (helpful nature)

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness and honor.”

– Proverbs 21:21
  1. Bake a loaf of bread and deliver it in person or mail it.
  2. Bake cookies.
  3. Bring chocolates.
  4. Write and mail a handwritten note.
  5. Bring or deliver flowers.
  6. Bring or deliver balloons.
  7. Call or FaceTime
  8. Pick up groceries.
  9. Pick up prescriptions.
  10. Watch a sporting event on television with them – football, baseball, tennis, hockey – whatever they might like. Bring their favorite teams hat or pennant to display during the game.

GOODNESS: (adj) kind, benevolent, loyal, commendable

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

– Galatians 6:9
  1. Paint a picture together.
  2. Color together.
  3. Write Bible verses on notecards and put into a box for them to pull out and read.
  4. Type, print and frame Bible verses or encouraging quotes and frame them for their room.
  5. Take pictures with them, frame or print them for their room.
  6. Send pictures of the grandchildren to have displayed around the room.
  7. Make a scrapbook, possibly together, and fill it with family pictures so they can show it to the other residents. This is a simple way to connect with the elderly.

FAITHFULNESS: (adj) steadfast in allegiance – loyal

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

– I Corinthians 1:9
  1. Daily check-in texts or phone calls.
  2. Dependable daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly visits either in person, on the phone or FaceTime.
  3. Write handwritten notes.
  4. Be intentional.
  5. Be consistent.
  6. Be loyal.
  7. Be devoted.

GENTLENESS: (n) free from harshness or sternness – soft, delicate.

“Gracious words are honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

– Proverbs 16:24
  1. Gentleness is about words; therefore, be kind in your tone and speech.
  2. Write a list of characteristics and attributes you love about them and post it in their room.
  3. Text them something you love about them.
  4. Call them and tell them something you love about them.
  5. Tell them how much you apricate them and why.
  6. Give them a hug and kiss.
  7. Compliment their hair, attire or how they look.
  8. If possible, bring your dog to the facility for some pet therapy.
  9. Talk about the lovely day – sunny sky, butterfly, flowers, warm breeze or surroundings.
  10. Paint a picture – even a color by numbers – outside, if possible, and compliment their work.

SELF-CONTROL (n): restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection and to mutual affection, love.”

– 2 Peter 1: 5 – 7
  1. Encourage short bouts of exercise. If possible, walk around the grounds with them or do chair exercises.
  2. Encourage them to make their bed daily.
  3. Encourage them to have a daily quiet time.
  4. Encourage them to have a daily scheduled nap or rest time.
  5. Have a cup of tea or lemonade together in the afternoon.
  6. Provide crossword puzzles, word finds or sudoku workbooks.
  7. Play a board game together.
  8. Read a book aloud to them.
  9. Provide a good book for them to read.
  10. Sing a song with them.

Intentionality is not always easy. It requires a great deal of self-sacrifice, time, thought, emotion and energy. However, the Lord requires us to take hold of that charge and steward it well.

 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

– John 15:12

For those who were raised in the church, this verse was one of the pillars of the faith and one of the first to be memorized in Sunday school. However, what is seemingly easy to theorize and memorize, the practical application of this verse can be incredibly onerous to implement, especially when connecting with elders. The reality is that many of our loved ones living in an assisted living facility are emotionally challenging. In fact, they might not be easy to love.

Perhaps they are dealing with depression, anger, or frustration due to a myriad of grievances. Perhaps they do not want to be there and are irritated and upset with their living situation. With this in mind, know you are not alone. Find a support group to allow for mutual encouragement. Talk with other family members about how to best rally around your loved one. But most importantly, press into what the Lord is asking you to do. Life is not easy. Relationships can be difficult. Family members can be challenging.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

– Hebrews 13:16

Knowing the qualities and characteristics of the fruits of the Spirit require us to move past our humanness and become more Christlike; therefore, venture toward choosing to operate in the intentional knowing your calling fulfills the law of Christ.

“…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

– Galatians 5: 13 – 14

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