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In the United States, the average life expectancy has increased by 30 years since the 1900.
For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 5 according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And by 2030, the 65 and older age group is expected to double to 70 million people. The elderly population is booming, but the way we define it has remained static, leaving many people in this age group without a definitive role or sense of purpose.
As a family caregiver, you help out with the daily activities of living such as housekeeping, meal preparation and daily hygiene. But one of the most important services you offer that can sometimes be overlooked in the “hurriedness” of life is helping your parent find a reason to get up in the morning. The desire to live a purposeful life does not diminish with retirement. In fact, the fulfillment of this one need will possibly prolong their life.
A study conducted at a nursing home in the 1970’s addressed this. One set of residents were given the task of arranging their furniture, choosing house plants that they were responsible for and given the choice concerning the movies they would watch. The control group was advised that the staff would do everything for them. After three weeks, almost all participants in the first group exhibited significant improvement in mental and physical well-being as compared to the second group who stayed the same or declined.
AARP Foundation Experience Corps decided to put the talent and expertise of older Americans in use by creating a volunteer organization just for them that would address the needs of disadvantaged children. Adults age 50 plus act as literacy tutors for students in high-need elementary schools. Now, 2000 trained volunteers are working in 21 cities serving over 30,000 students every year. Not only do these seniors know that they are contributing in a meaningful way, studies show that the children, after one year, have improved in critical literary skills by 60% as compared to their peers.
What these studies and volunteer organizations tell us is that giving your parent a sense of purpose, control and decision making can ultimately improve their physical and mental health. Whether itâ€™s arranging the pictures in the house or picking out plants for the garden, to volunteering for one of the many organizations in your community, both small and large actions can contribute to their well being.
In-Home Care Provider
If you find time constraints make it difficult to include your parent in daily chores and activities, or its hard to find the time to drive them to their volunteer organization that they enjoy so much they have recently requested three-days-a-week participation, consider obtaining the services of an in-home care provider. These well-trained professionals are there to assist with the daily activities of living, including transportation. They also know the importance of interactive care, and will include your parent to the best of their abilities.