AP NEWS

Community members become ‘Santas’ for local seniors

December 14, 2018

Although some may think of Christmas as a time for giving gifts to children, older citizens can be in need of generosity around the holidays as well.

Home Instead Senior Care - a personalized senior care service - asked community members to buy gifts for seniors in need this holiday season as part of their annual Be a Santa to a Senior program, which launched in 2003.

In communities nationwide, Home Instead’s community partners displayed Christmas trees decorated with ornaments that each had the name of a local senior and their requested gift.

Three local YMCAs were among Home Instead’s partners this year, including the D. Bradley McWilliams YMCA in the northwest Houston area.

Citizens could grab an ornament, buy the predetermined gift for their recipient and return their gift to the participating location by Dec. 12. Volunteers would then wrap the presents before delivering them to the seniors.

Cara Delgado, owner of the Houston branch of Home Instead, said the event is needed for seniors who are lonely and do not have many family members around. According to the Administration for Community Living, 20 percent of men and 34 percent of women 65 and older lived by themselves in 2017.

“This is a good time and an important time to remember our senior loved ones and neighbors,” Delgado said. “Social isolation is a concern among seniors and the holidays often intensify feelings of distance and loneliness. When we deliver the gifts and spend some time with them, it makes a big difference.”

Delgado said the program is expected to draw at least 200 participants who want to donate, while other Home Instead offices in the country reach the thousands. Delgado said the organization relies on local nonprofits and senior care facilities, like VITAS Healthcare, to select which seniors need gifts and what gifts to bring them.

“We ask them for suggested gift items and sometimes they’re things that people want and sometimes they’re things they need,” she said. “I don’t limit it to just socks and gloves and hats and blankets.”

The event is not restricted to Home Instead clients, she said.

“It’s an important time to remember our seniors and all that they have done for us,” Delgado said. “So much of what we have to be grateful for is because of the people that came before us.”

chevall.pryce@chron.com