Every community has a diverse set of older adults who differ by age, racial background, education, financial status, sexual orientation, and life experience. This poses many challenges in engaging every single one of them in the community.
The youngest set of older adults are usually more proactive on this end. They are more mentally and physically fit, which allows them to accomplish tasks and pursue activities on their own without supervision.
However, the older they get, the less inclined they are to go out and get to know other people. This is usually due to their health limitations. Many older adults well into their 80s or older experience impairments that affect their capacity to leave the house.
Today, despite the good news of wide vaccinations and the introduction of booster shots, safety is still a concern for many senior citizens. Being fully vaccinated protects older adults from experiencing severe illness from COVID-19, but of course, there is still the existing risk of catching the virus.
How, then, can communities safely include older adults in events in the neighborhood?
Eliminate Barriers to Community Involvement
The best way to effectively engage senior citizens in your neighborhood is to figure out what is keeping them from doing so and deal with it. These are often linked to declining physical and mental health. Some older adults experience barriers to their sight or hearing or cannot walk travel distances without support. They may also have health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 in addition to their age.
It can be challenging to address these concerns for everyone. With some creativity, though, your community can come together to set up events that accommodate the different seniors in your neighborhood.
For instance, having an outdoor cookout may not be ideal for senior citizens with mobility issues. What you can do instead is to set up a drive-in cinema where friends or loved ones can drive them to the park and have them comfortably enjoy a movie from inside the vehicle. This eliminates the risk of physical contact with other people, too.
When planning events where big equipment is required, make sure you check with local authorities if you need permits. You should also see if you must separately rent a commercial crane to bring large items into the venue.
Before putting events together, opt to go the extra mile by speaking with the guardians of the older adults in your neighborhood. This helps your planning committee gain more insight into their struggles and how you can make future events and everyday tasks more accessible to them.
Introduce a Variety of Activities
Preparing different kinds of activities to suit varying interests among your older crowd also lets them look forward to other events. Here are some great ideas to have them participate safely:
Invite a senior to give a talk
Many older adults live in isolation. There are times when their families live in different states or cities or may not have many friends who are still alive. One way to encourage them to open up about themselves is to give them the platform to do so.
If you have talks for students or young professionals in the community, have a senior share their relevant life experiences. You can minimize risk by taking a video of the guest speaker and then showing it to participants at a webinar. If they are capable of managing the technical needs or have someone at home to assist them, they can also join the webinar via conference call and give their talk live.
Have them assist with volunteer work
There should be plenty of religious organizations and nonprofits in your local community who are hosting their own charities. Invite seniors to take part in this by asking them to help prepare some of the things you need.
Keep the activities simple. For example, if they are physically fit, some can help other volunteers assemble packages and boxes. Others can help create items such as blankets and pillowcases for giving away. If they want to, they can also send donations or have them picked up from their homes.
Volunteering is a small way for them to see purpose in their activities, which can help them become more excited about daily living.
It is crucial to reach out to the older adults in your community and make sure you cater to their needs. Approach your community planning with kindness and sensitivity, and you can effectively create engaging events for them.