When I was a little girl, I remember how we would visit nursing homes at Christmas to carol and pass out cards and little crafts we had made.
One particular year, my heart knit with a resident to whom I gave my little candy cane ornament. She was spunky, beautiful and her name was Dorothy. From then on, until I left for college, I visited Dorothy every holiday and brought her a gift.
I did the same for another elderly person who was introduced to me by the farmer I worked for. He rented land from her and we became fast friends. Her name was Lenora.
Both ladies were very similar in that they led full lives, had families and even traveled the world. But one enjoyed life in her old age and one did not. I always left her feeling sad and wishing I could make her happier.
What I realized in my interaction with these two ladies is that I had a soft spot for the elderly. I have always had a great deal of awe and respect for those who experienced life before me (I am a hopeless romantic for the simpler days), but I also felt that one day, that might be my grandparents in a nursing home and I would want strangers to love on them like I tried to do for Lenora and Dorothy.
So, for the past decade, I have visited a nursing home every Friday I can and bring my girls when they do not have school. The sweet residents who we meet are so special to us and they love to see the girls every week. Here are some pictures of them with our residents:
You might feel like it’s intimidating to visit nursing homes and it can be at first. I’ve been doing this for many years and I will admit, I still get nervous sometimes; putting myself out there isn’t always easy. But I can also promise you, residents love that anyone would take time out of their day for them.
This beautiful lady is 101 years old and she never misses a service of mine. Whenever I feel like I’m not making a difference, she is there to tell me how much my talks inspire her. Me, inspire a woman who has lived nearly a century?! Wow! I just love her!
No matter how I feel before I walk into the nursing homes, I always walk out feeling blessed. It’s why I keep going back. They need me and I need them. And they need you, too. Whatever you have to offer.
If you think you want to give it a try but aren’t sure where to start, I have some ideas.
1. Start small.
- Contact your local nursing home to see if they need volunteers for meals, holidays, etc. You won’t have to get up in front of a crowd of people but you can still brighten their day with a smile and a helping hand.
- Maybe you can sit with a resident who has been bedridden, read to them or just sit and watch TV with them.
- Contact the Activities Director to see if you can help with any activities they are putting on. Nursing homes do everything from bingo to face painting to craft fairs.
2. Showcase your talents.
- Can you play an instrument? Residents love listening to music.
- Are you funny? Give them a 30-minute comedy sketch.
- If you can sing, put on a performance. You can request a smaller room if you don’t wish to have a large audience.
Here are the girls playing their instruments and singing:
3. Run a service.
This is what the girls and I do. I’ll break it down so you can see how we do our services.
- The first 15 minutes we sing hymns with the residents. Most residents know and love the hymns, you can never go wrong there. If you would prefer, try some oldies or familiar choruses. This is one of our services where we have a gentleman who plays for us while we sing:
- If the girls aren’t in school, then most of the song time is spent with them playing their instruments or singing. The residents LOVE the girls!
- We then find out who has birthdays that month and sing to them and give a small gift.
- I then offer a 5-10 minute devotional, something encouraging. You will want to stick with things that are relevant to their time of life. You could always read a story or tell something about yourself, instead.
- We then spend the last few minutes visiting with the residents.
4. You can volunteer once a month, every week or only on holidays.
This is totally up to you. The nursing homes are eager for volunteers to help in any capacity and will work with your schedule. We have four nursing homes we visit regularly and run a total of five services a month. Sometimes we are asked to come in for special occasions like Christmas but most times we already run our services to correlate with the holidays.
Benefits of volunteering:
- You give a piece of yourself and in turn receive a blessing.
- If you have kids, the residents love to spoil them. These umbrellas were gifts from one lovely lady:
- You learn speaking skills that you can also use elsewhere.
- You get to enjoy Volunteer Banquets. This is Dixie at one of the Christmas banquets with the performer.
- Last, but definitely not least, you make life-long friends.
Why not give it a try? Decide to visit a nursing home and see if you don’t walk away blessed.
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.