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Ready, Set, Shop: Local ‘Elder Orphan’ epidemic grows with many feeling lonely

Elder Elves surprise seniors with baskets of holiday cheer

’Tis the season for holiday cheer, but for “Elder Orphans” the season can be anything but merry. Elder Orphans are a growing population of seniors, here in our area and throughout the U.S., who are socially or physically isolated without an available family member or caregiver to help them manage aging. They may be divorced or widowed and/or have no children or any living relatives nearby.

That’s why the “Elder Elves” at Senior Care Authority are delivering baskets of cheer to the elderly this season and also helping loved ones, who may be far away, learn how to help seniors during the holidays. You can follow these Elder Elves as they surprise area seniors with a basket of cheer to lift their spirits this holiday season.

Elder Orphan fast facts:

* More than one-quarter of Americans age 65 or older live alone, according to new research by the Pew Research Center.

* AARP launched a campaign to address the growing problem of loneliness and estimates one in five people older than 50 are affected by isolation that can lead to higher rates of chronic disease, depression, dementia and death.

* The AARP research finds prolonged isolation has an equal effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

* In a University of Michigan survey, more than 70 percent of older Americans polled say they feel isolated and lonely. Studies show the holidays may trigger HALF of all depressive episodes.

“We created the Basket of Holiday Cheer to help seniors feel appreciated and loved during the holiday season, especially those without family or with loved ones far away,” said Frank Samson, CEO of Senior Care Authority, a national elder-care consulting franchise with experts in our area.

“We help the elderly and their families with the overwhelming challenges of aging, including finding living solutions and caregiving options,” Samson said. “We also help them through the emotional maze of keeping the elderly mentally and physically healthy. A basket of cheer is an easy way to show the elderly you care, and that they’re not forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.”

Senior Care Authority basket of holiday cheer

Holiday treats (cookies or candy) — If the senior is able, bake together or bring their favorite treat as an activity. Keep it simple.

Create a scrapbook — With photos of your senior loved one, make a holiday scrapbook together.

Bring ornament or trinket — For a Christmas tree or bedside table. Make an ornament together, catering to the senior’s abilities. Hanging small decorations makes the senior feel “plugged in” to the holiday.

Gift card for a day on the town — Take a senior out for a movie, cup of coffee or dinner. Many spend so much time alone in the house, a day out is a real treat.

Technology to connect — Help a senior use a smartphone, tablet or computer to Skype, Facetime or even Facebook with family and friends who live too far away to visit.

Other ideas to make holidays happy for elderly

Interview your senior and keep the video as a keepsake — With your cell phone or I-pad videotape the grandkids or relatives interviewing your elderly loved ones about their lives or favorite holiday stories. Play for the senior as a video diary.

Potluck holiday buffets — If you do get to see your loved one for the holidays, make sure everyone brings a dish, so it’s not left up to Mom or Grand mom to cook everything. Cooking and planning holiday meals becomes more stressful with age.

Plan the festivities for earlier in the day — Seniors tend to rise and go to sleep earlier than most. They have most of their energy earlier in the day, so plan gatherings accordingly.

Help seniors decorate — If possible, help elderly loved ones decorate or if budgets allow, pay someone to decorate for them. Keep it simple and don’t overdo it.

Take a ride — Take your senior for a ride through the neighborhood to see the decorations and get some fresh air.

— Senior Care Authority is a Senior Placement and elder-care consulting organization based in Petaluma. Founded in 2009, the franchise serves nearly 40 communities in 13 states.  Senior Care Authority provides a national network of professionally trained and experienced, local advisors who assist families with the overwhelming challenges associated with selecting the best options in assisted living, memory care, nursing care and other long-term care services.  The company ranked on Entrepreneur’s Top 500 New Franchises list in 2017 and 2018.  For more information about the company’s franchise opportunity visit online at htt://www.seniorcareauthority.com/franchise.

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