Nice homes make a neighborhood beautiful, but good people make a neighborhood great. You can do good in your neighborhood by paying attention to the needs of your elderly neighbors and the physically infirm. Here are some ideas for being neighborly to those who may need a little help from their friends.
During weather extremes
Seniors can be particularly vulnerable to temperature extremes because they have more difficulty regulating body heat. It’s a good idea to check on frail neighbors in their 60s and anyone over 70 when temperatures soar above 90 or drop to teeth-chattering levels.
In summer, make sure your elderly neighbor’s air-conditioner works well. If she doesn’t have one, loan her a fan or something else to cool her house. Make sure there is plenty of ice in the fridge. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and stroke such as heavy sweating, paleness, cramping, clammy skin and fainting. In extreme heat, offer to let her stay with you until temps cool down.
In winter, check to see that her heating works well and that she has plenty of blankets, sweaters, a coat and a radio. Take over hot meals like chili or soup and stay to share them. It’s thoughtful to shovel snow and ice from your elderly neighbor’s steps, sidewalks and driveway. If there is a power failure, check that she can bundle up at home, or invite her to your house. When you run to the grocery, spare her a trip in the wicked weather by asking if you can pick up a few things.
Other ways to help elderly neighbors
Don’t restrict your efforts solely to extreme weather. Get to know your elderly neighbors and stop by to visit from time to time. Share stories and build friendships.
Remember that seniors’ adult children may live far away. Holidays can be lonely for elderly neighbors who are isolated, so invite them to join in your holiday plans. Stop by to visit or invite them to your house for dinner or playing games.
The elderly often keep regular routines. The lady next door may always walk her dog at the same time every afternoon, for example, or work in the garden each morning. Pay attention to your elderly neighbors’ routines so that you’ll know to check on them if something seems amiss.
Make sure the seniors in your neighborhood know you’re always available to assist with home fix-it projects or to deal with contractors. Help out with landscape work they cannot handle. If a project is bigger than you can manage, recruit other neighbors to help.
Offer to drive your elderly neighbors to doctor appointments and to pick up medications at the local pharmacy. Encourage them to give your contact information to their out-of-town family members so you can be a local hand in an emergency. Likewise, ask for the contact information of those relatives so that you can contact them if you discover something is wrong.
By taking the initiative to know and care about your elderly neighbors, you’re setting an example for others in the neighborhood. Encourage them to share your interest in the seniors in your midst so that when you aren’t available, someone else can help.
Remember that with all of these suggestions, you must act with some discretion. You don’t want to be overbearing or intrusive. If an elderly neighbor is in good health and feels independent, don’t hover.