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En español | We are a nation of givers — generously giving time, energy and resources to benefit individuals less fortunate.
It's a great American tradition to take time to reflect on and give thanks for the blessings of health, freedom, personal and financial security, family and friends.
In November — the month of Thanksgiving — we also commemorate Veterans Day to show our gratitude to our veterans for their service. It's also National Caregivers Month, a time to appreciate and thank those who take care of family members, often allowing them to remain at home rather than live in an institution.
As the month draws to a close, we shift our attention to the excitement of the upcoming holidays. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are energy-filled windows of shopping and spending, focused generally on family and friends we know well. While this is a good and valuable activity, far too often we lose sight of the ongoing struggles of those less fortunate than we are.
I'd like to make a suggestion to our AARP family. Perhaps, in the midst of our end-of-November shopping, we should insert a "Senior Sunday," when each of us commits to doing something for and with a senior, whether that person is in our family, community or elsewhere.
Why? Because social isolation is a killer. It's the trigger for a myriad of health problems, nagging loneliness and even, sadly, suicide. At AARP, we try to look at all the connections that make up a person's life and to come up with ways to help keep those connections strong, even in times of stress and crisis.
What can you do? Take someone to the movies or dinner; be the "chauffeur" for housebound seniors to visit with friends they haven't seen in a while; take them for a walk; help with some household chores that they can no longer do; put their favorite photos on a digital frame so they will have their happiest memories moving before them; spend time with them and find out how you and your family can help brighten their holiday season and the cold lonely winter months ahead.
Be creative, be innovative — be involved.
I hope you will take time to learn about these programs and look at more service opportunities we champion (such as Mentor Up and Experience Corps and to dedicate yourself to participating where you can.
As the pace of life picks up in November, let's not forget those around us in need. Plan with your family and friends for a Senior Sunday, beginning this month, then make it a routine monthly activity that gives concrete meaning to what involvement, giving and caring are all about. Giving to and participating in activities that help others promote the kind of balance we all need to maintain awareness of the problems many people face. At the same time, it keeps us aware of and grateful for the many life-gifts each of us has received.
My best wishes to everyone in our extended AARP family and my sincere hope that as you give thanks for your blessings in November, you will take a moment to shine a light on someone else.
CALL TO ACTION:
Visit AARP's CreateTheGood.org for more ideas on volunteering. By ZIP code, the website lists volunteer opportunities that are one-time projects (such as collecting canned goods for a food drive) or ongoing activities (such as becoming a financial mentor to a homeless family).
Jo Ann Jenkins is the Chief Executive Officer of AARP
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