Successful Aging: How can I help others without overcommitting my resources and energy?
Q. I am widowed, down-sized and fairly comfortable these days. More and more, I am seeing the needs of people around me who really could use my help. Old friends and new are in need of support, hot meals, trips to the doctor – one even needs a place to stay. How can I be sympathetic with all of these needs without going overboard? I feel very guilty if I don’t help, but I don’t feel that I have the strength or the resources to contribute. Your input would again be appreciated.Y.T.
As we age, we often realize how fortunate we are and at times how less fortunate others are.
Your concerns are reflected in statistics. In Los Angeles County, the 2016 American Community survey reports that 17.8 percent of residents are living below the poverty level. In California, 14.3 percent lacked enough resources — about $24,300 per year for a family of four — to meet basic needs.
Then there is the problem of homelessness. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of homeless people across Los Angeles County went from 38,700 to more than 55,000 – an increase of 42 percent.
So yes, we do have problems. The question is, “What can we do as individuals?” The question taps our responsibility as citizens, as holding true to our faith beliefs and wanting to make a difference. And yet we all have limits.
Although the combined ills of our world, nation and community can be overwhelming, I believe each of us has a role we can play, even if is just making life better for one person.
Here is a thought for a personal strategy:
1. Determine what you comfortably are able to do. Can you drive, walk, write, speak on the phone, cook or bake, crochet or knit?
2. Identify one person who could benefit from what you are able to offer.
3. Then connect what you are able to do with the need and follow the Nike philosophy and just “Do it.”
Here are some examples:
Make a telephone call to a sick friend.
Drive someone to a doctor’s appointment.
Knit an afghan or cap for a family with a new baby.
When shopping, pick up something extra for a friend in need.
Invite someone for coffee, lunch or dinner.
Write a caring note to someone who you know will appreciate it.
We know that the smallest act of kindness is greatly appreciated.
If you have the time and inclination to volunteer, here are several opportunities: Beach Cities Health District in the South Bay offers conversation companions and errand assistance for older and disabled adults.
Another opportunity is to volunteer for one of the Villages in your geographic area. The Village is a national movement that provides opportunities for midlife and older adults to age in their residence for as long as possible and stay connected to their communities. Go to https://vtvnetwork.clubexpress.com to find one in your community and ask about volunteering that is consistent with your energy and abilities.
Then there are needs that go beyond what you can do. That calls for knowing about resources. You can serve as a referral. Here are just a few should you become aware of someone with the following concerns.
Seeking end of life compassionate care. Contact the Caring House in Torrance, a nonprofit organization that provides a warm and comfortable home away from home for persons at the end of their lives. Call (310 796-6625).
Ways to organize meals and help for family and friends in need. Contact Lotsa Helping Hands which is a care calendar website. See https://lotsahelpinghands.com/.
Questions about Medicare and Medical. Contact the Center for Health Care Rights, a California-based non-profit organization that provides access to quality health care through information, education and more. Call (800 824-0780).
Age-related legal or health problems. Contact Healthcare Elder Law Programs that provides impartial information, education and counseling on elder care, law, finances and consumer protection. Call (310 533-1996).
General referral information. Contact Focal Point on Aging which serves residents of Torrance yet includes resources from a broader geographic area. Call (310 320-1300).
Finding services for older adults, disabled and those in personal crisis or new to the community. Dial 211.
Y.T, Thank you for your important question. As for guilt –all we can do is be the best we can be. Perhaps one act of kindness a day or week that fits with your abilities and resources will remove some of the guilt. You might record those acts, review them and at the end of a week or month, the guilt may subside. Thank you for caring.