Most people think senior citizens cannot contribute to the community. The impression is that the level of contribution is inversely proportional to age. Not true. Seniors contribute experience, knowledge and dedication. Just give them the opportunity! Below are 10 things you can set up to maximize the talents and resources of seniors in your community.
1. Set up a foster grandparent program
How many of our Muslim youth have never met or had regular contact with their grandparents, either because of death or distance? Setting up a foster grandparent program is a fantastic way to have young Muslims experience the feeling of having a loving grandparent, and to teach them the etiquette of dealing with the older Muslims.
One way this can be done is by pairing off one youth and one senior. They can either decide on their own what activities they would like to do together, or they could simply restrict their contact to visits at each other's home.
Keep this pairing same-gender, in other words, boys with men and girls with women.
2. Set up a Council of Elders or Muslim Seniors' Committee
This could serve two purposes:
a. a committee devoted solely to seniors needs and issues that would work in collaboration with other members of the Muslim community.
b. it could also serve as an advisory board to existing Muslim organizations. This could be done for the local Masjid(s) or it could even be more specific.
3. Talk About Their Needs in Khutbahs and Seminars
If you're an Imam or Khateeb and can't figure out what to talk about at the next Juma prayer ore event you're scheduled to speak at, Muslim Seniors' Needs and Rights” is a good one. This should go beyond the standard “respect your elders” lecture. It should highlight the reality of their lives: loneliness, neglect, at times, and their needs to socialize and get involved in the community.
4. Set up a “Salam” program
Set up a network of brothers and sisters to establish a telephone calling system where seniors, especially those who are on their own, are called at least every two or three days to see that they are okay and their needs are met, or even just to talk and see how they are doing.
5. Set up classes and Halaqas for them
You may assume seniors know enough about Islam at their age, but this is not necessarily true. Whether they are converts or Muslims from “back home” knowledge has to be brushed up on regularly, and doing so will not only keep them busy, it will also keep them intellectually active.
For this activity, you'll need a patient teacher, since many seniors may be slower in understanding concepts or their hearing may not be as good.
As well, make sure the class or Halaqah is in a language they understand. Foreign-born seniors may not understand English well enough.
You can also offer computer classes. How many seniors grew up with Pentium's and IBM's? Few, that's for sure. Let them learn a new skill.
6. Have the senior sisters crochet or knit something in a group,
then auction it off, let the proceeds go to the Masjid or some other worthy cause in the community.
This is an almost sure fire way of making the older sisters feel valued and an asset to the community.
7. Set up a community garden on the Masjid's plot or a food co-op
Having a pension means having to do with less for many seniors. Setting up a community garden on the Masjid's land is a great way to sell foodstuffs for cheaper prices to seniors, and make some money for the Masjid.
8. Have a Muslim Seniors' Night at the Mosque
One of the things many seniors miss is hanging out with peers their own age. Arrange this activity, with a lecture and socializing afterwards. It can cater to different language groups.
9.Have the elderly give classes with the help of an assistant
Whether it's sewing, knitting, learning how to do calligraphy or reading and writing Arabic, Urdu, or Bengali, for instance, let the seniors be the teachers, and pass on their valuable knowledge to the younger generation.
10. Don't forget to have fun: sightseeing, boat rides, etc.
How many Muslim seniors do you know who have gotten a chance to visit the city's major landmarks, or even all of its Masjids and Halal businesses. Arrange a sightseeing visit.
If you're in a city with a larger Muslim population, give them the “Muslim tour of Chicago or Brooklyn,” for instance, pointing out the biggest or oldest mosque, the first Halal grocery store, etc.
Photo Attribution: Catherine Scott - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Child_pushing_grandmother_on_plastic_tricycle.jpg