Dear Annie: My mom recently had a health scare. Although she is OK for now, it has limited her mobility, and she's not nearly so active as she used to be. She always has been really active in the community and has had a heart for seniors. Unfortunately, that also means that most of her friends are in similar straits -- mostly housebound and without stimulating activities and stories. Her husband still works full time, and I live about 10 hours away, which means that I can't stop in daily or weekly. Even visiting her monthly is a stretch. I call her each day, but I can tell that the forced isolation is hard on her mentally and emotionally -- not that she'd admit it.
What sort of groups are out there that could help provide interaction? I know she'd love to be useful. Is there any sort of pen pal group or something similar that homebound seniors can participate in? -- Wanting a Stage for Every Age
Dear Wanting a Stage for Every Age: What a great question. Social connectedness and a sense of purpose are so important to mental health and, in turn, overall well-being. Pen Pals for Seniors (www.penpalsforseniors.org) connects seniors with people looking for pen pals. That would put some pep in your mom's step as she goes to check the mail. She could also organize a book club centered on weekly calls with her friends. Though the calls would happen only periodically, throughout the week she'd be reading the book and thinking of what she'd like to share about it with her friends.
Lastly, seeing as you mentioned that she'd like to feel useful, she might consider volunteering for a crisis hotline, such as a domestic violence hotline, The Trevor Project, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline. She doesn't have to leave home to make a difference in the world.
Dear Annie: I work in a nursing home and enjoy chatting with the residents. They are so proud to say that there has been a new member of their family added through marriage or birth.
However, more and more, they have no photo of this joyful event to show. We are so often using only our electronic devices to send photos, and our elderly population can be left out.
Please remember to send a real photo to a family member who does not have electronic devices -- or even if the person does. It's a wonderful thing to have pictures of loved ones to look at. Don't forget to label each photo with a name and date. -- Memory-Maker
Dear Memory-Maker: You've inspired me to have some photos printed and sent to family this week, and I hope many others are inspired in the same way. Thank you so much for raising this issue, as I'm sure it's one that many of us have overlooked.