Doing Good Together June 2006 Newsletter

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Doing Good Together Newsletter )
Helping strengthen kids and communities through family volunteerism... June 2006
in this issue
  • Senior Angels- A Ray of Sunshine
  • Bring up the Topic of Age and the Elderly
  • Fact
  • One Family's Story
  • News From DGT
  • Research shows that children as young as five have negative stereotypes of elderly people, believing them to lack competence. But these same children were overwhelmingly positive about the older adults in their own family. This shows that as people spend time together and learn more about one another, stereotypes and uneasiness can disappear. This is the power of intergenerational connections. How can you help your own kids gain understanding and respect for people of all ages? Read on!

    Jenny Friedman, Executive Director

    Senior Angels- A Ray of Sunshine
    senior angels

    Make a Difference... An easy way to brighten the life of a senior is the “Senior Angel” program. Through once-a-week chatty letters, friendly cards, uplifting notes and an occasional small gift, your family can encourage and support an elderly person. (Gifts would be in the $2 to $5 range, such as a packet of bath salts, box of tea or bar of scented soap. The website has more ideas.) Senior Angels are a dedicated bunch who are committed to keeping up a weekly correspondence, which the senior naturally comes to rely on. For more information and to sign up, visit the Senior Angels website.

    Photo: Courtesy Senior Angels

    Bring up the Topic of Age and the Elderly

    Talk About It ... Do your part to create a more age-integrated society by having conversations with your children about aging and by making certain they have positive contact with seniors.

    • Many children (and adults) are uneasy about interacting with elderly people, especially if that person is in a hospital or nursing home. If you’ll be visiting someone in an institution, talk to your children about what to expect before you arrive, including the fact that some elderly people may be loud, confused or nonresponsive.
    • Explain what seniors have to offer all of us – their life-long wisdom, their experience, their mentoring and their stories. Interaction with the elderly also fosters positive attitudes toward aging and the lifecycle.
    • How we speak to older people is often based on stereotypes rather than their actual capabilities, which vary widely. You’ll want to make accommodations if a person has a hearing loss or memory problems, but don’t automatically assume they do.

      Learn About It ... Read books about older people with your children. If you plan to visit a nursing home, first read Sunshine Home by Eve Bunting. For a terrific story about helping one another, check out Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray. While you’re reading, discuss stereotypes of aging and the importance of respect. Visit our website for more children’s books about the elderly.


    Fifty percent of residents in nursing homes have no family members, and 60% of residents receive no visitors.

    One Family's Story
    The Patton family with Agnes Pilane

    When Shelly Patton met 68-year-old Agnes Pilane four years ago, Patton knew right away that they had a bond. Both women live in Atlanta, far from family. Patton’s parents and siblings are in California and Miss Agnes’s relatives are in South Africa, where she lived until 1994. Both women yearned to have family nearby. Through a program called “Adopt-a- Grandparent,” part of FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, Patton and Miss Agnes became each other’s family. Patton visits Miss Agnes once every couple weeks in the senior high rise where she lives and takes food to her from a local food cooperative. They also talk on the phone once or twice a week. The two trust each other without question, take care of each other and share common interests. “She treats me like one of her own and I treat her like one of my own,” says Patton.

    When Patton and her husband brought a foster son, seven-year-old Eric, into their lives eight months ago, the circle of caring expanded. Now Eric accompanies Patton on almost all her visits to her adopted granny. Miss Agnes took to Eric right away, says Patton, and the feeling was clearly mutual. Although some of Eric’s enthusiasm for the visits involves the cable TV and treats that Miss Agnes is quick to provide, the relationship goes much deeper than that. “There’s a spiritual connection between the two of them that’s hard to communicate,” says Patton. “But you can just feel her love for him.”

    Photo: The Patton family with Agnes Pilane

    News From DGT

    Two brand-new books have chapters written by DGT staff and board members. Jenny Friedman, our executive director, wrote “Building Character through Community Service” in Child Development: A Beginning Workshop Book, edited by Bonnie Neugebauer (Redmond, Wash.: Exchange Press, Inc.). Jenny also partnered with Gene Roehlkepartain, Doing Good Together board member and director of Family and Congregation Initiatives at Search Institute in Minneapolis, to write “Supporting Families in Serving Others: Challenges, Opportunities, and Strategies,” for Families and Faith: A Vision and Practice for the Parish Leaders, edited by Leif Kehrwald (Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-Third Publications).

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