In many Latin cultures, respect and reverence for the elderly is instilled in children from an early age. In countries such as India and Nepal, seniors are typically cared for by their children instead of living out their glory years in a decidedly inglorious assisted living 'home.' In the United States, on the other hand, we have deposited millions of patients in over 16,100 nursing facilities, one in three of which have been cited for violations of federal standards that caused harm or potential harm to a resident. In 2010, Over 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating older patients through physical violence, mental abuse, or neglect. So this is what I’m going to do about it:
That’s right. I’m going to lug my set of Downton Abbey DVDs and a bag of chips down to a nursing home, pop one in, and sit there and watch TV. Yes, I’ll help them with errands, cleaning, or whatever else they need, but mostly I’ll be watching TV. Here’s why: to give them something to look forward to. I’d be willing to bet that at least a few of them are going to look forward to the once a month that the weird guy comes in with his DVDs and hangs out with them and asks them questions and tells stories and is generally a nice person who actually treats them like valuable members of society.
Some might think this idea is volunteering for lazy people. Maybe they’re right? But Americans are not going to stop watching their 23 hours of television a day, and elderly people are not going to stop being lonely. So why not kill two birds with one stone? That’s why I came up with 'televolunteering.' What if more people did this? Who knows—you might even hear a great story, learn a valuable life lesson, or—wait for it—ACTUALLY HAVE FUN. Maybe we’ll start to appreciate our aged citizens more if we spend a little more time with them.
Check out www.elderhelpers.org to be matched with an elder in need, and don’t forget to bring over season 1 of “Big Bang Theory” (“Breaking Bad” might be too much stimulation).