Love Thy Neighbor: A True Story
There once was an older adult who lived alone. He was not married and never had any children. His extended family did not live close by him. He was independent and managed his life well.
One day, the man suffered an injury that changed his life for several weeks. He was unable to cook for himself in the same way that he once had done. The man was unable to make it to the grocery store and pharmacy. He could not drive to his doctors’ appointments. He was unable to attend church and make his social rounds around town.
This independent older adult was now facing the challenge of needing assistance. Although he lived alone, he discovered that he did not have to face the journey of healing by himself. Thankfully, this man’s community took seriously the commandment "love thy neighbor."
His neighbors did his laundry. The man’s church organized a meal-delivery plan for several weeks. He received a dinner every other day and a visit from the congregants. Someone else went to the grocery store and pharmacy for the man. Other neighbors helped him get to his appointments with his various doctors.
With the help of his neighbors, the man began to heal. He was grateful for the love and support he received from his community. He experienced the commandment love thy neighbor firsthand. It made all the difference in the world. For him,
Older Adults and Loneliness
In a Time magazine article, author Jamie Ducharme quoted the National Poll on Healthy Aging: ”research shows that chronic loneliness can impact older adults’ memory, physical well-being, mental health and life expectancy” (March 4, 2019 time.com, accessed on Nov 11, 2019). The death of a spouse, adult children living some distance from their parents, and the loss of friends all have an impact on the social well-being of older adults.
Lack of community ties also plays a role in the loneliness of older adults and their health. Ducharme noted that “some research suggests that chronic loneliness may shorten life expectancy even more than being overweight or sedentary, and just as much as smoking."
For older adults living alone, neighbors and community members may provide the necessary social connections needed to thrive emotionally, physically and spiritually. According to Beth BaRoss, in the article Neighbors Can Be Lifesavers for Older Adults Who Live Alone on agingcare.com, “To an older individual, neighbors can be more than just a big help, they can be a lifesaver” (Neighbors Can Be Lifesavers for Older Adults Who Live Alone agingcare.com.) For my friend, his community and his neighbors, were lifesavers. He was able to stay in the comfort of his home during his recovery with the assistance of the community. Staying in his own home with the assistance of loving neighbors allowed my friend to flourish during his recovery time.
During this season, when Thanksgiving is on our minds, I give thanks to neighbors and communities who surround their older adults with love and support. I am grateful for people who check-in with their older neighbors during cold months. I appreciate community members who socialize with the older adults in their community, especially with those older adults who live alone. If you are one of these neighbors, believe me, you make a difference!
Love Your Neighbor
How are you being called to love thy neighbor? Maybe you feel called to visit an older adult in your neighborhood or congregation. Maybe you are considering inviting an older adult who lives alone to join you for Thanksgiving. Brainstorm with your congregation, your family and/or your neighborhood. Thankfully, together, we can make a difference in the lives of older adults.