How Random Acts of Kindness Benefit Seniors and the Elderly


We’ve all heard stories about random acts of kindness – strangers paying for someone’s groceries, mowing someone’s lawn when they can’t, dropping off cookies at the neighbor’s house for no particular reason, or simply slipping a note into a stranger’s hand telling them how much they matter. Random acts of kindness can take the form of anything from giving a stranger a concert ticket to calling up a friend out of the blue to ask how they are. And while these acts certainly benefit the recipient, they also offer surprising benefits for those who bestow these acts of kindness.

So whether you are offering to cook for a crowd at the community barbecue, gifting your loved one with a medical alert device with fall detection, donating new books to your local library, or simply calling up someone to offer support, those acts of kindness add up to a good experience for everyone involved.

The Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness

According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, those who offer up kindness to others increase hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, boost energy and pleasure, provide a jolt of happiness, and even extend their lifespans. They also found that being kinder and giving to others resulted in less anxiety, pain, and stress, helped stave off depression, and lowered blood pressure[1].

Those results are not insignificant or transient. For instance, studies have found that those who make kindness a habit have 23% less cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who don’t. And besides that, they tend to age at a slower rate[2]. The boost of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” releases nitric oxide in the body, which is a natural chemical that dilates the blood vessels – thus, the lowered blood pressure[3]. And those aged 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations to help others saw a remarkable 44% lower likelihood of dying early[4]. The Journal of Gerontology agrees, in a study that found a diverse group of older adults who gave kindness to others experienced much lower mortality rates. Their quality of life got better too – volunteering can help combat cognitive decline[5].

Given these wonderful advantages, committing random acts of kindness is often recommended for those who suffer from depression or other mood disorders. The boost in serotonin and other good hormones can lessen anxiety and depression while making a person feel much more connected to their community and fellow human beings. In fact, a study on happiness found that those who performed acts of kindness for seven days saw a boost in happiness, and that increase was directly tied to the number of acts they performed during those seven days[6].

Where Do I Start?

Offering up random acts of kindness sounds like an excellent idea – and it is – but it can be hard to know where to start. A good place to begin is by asking yourself questions that can help determine what random acts of kindness you can do. For example:

·         What are you really good at? If you are a cooking machine in the kitchen and can make the best chicken noodle soup in the world, perhaps your special brand of kindness could be feeding others. You could volunteer with a senior center for Meals on Wheels fundraisers, perhaps.

·         How athletic are you? If you are in excellent physical shape, you could do things that help others who are stuck at home thanks to illness or injury, such as walking their dog or helping clean up their yard after a storm. Or you can volunteer with the Special Olympics in your area.

·         Are you a good listener? Sometimes companionship can make the difference between a good day and an awful one. Simply having someone to listen can soothe the soul. Consider volunteering your time to keep company with the residents of your local nursing home. (And remember, that companionship and volunteering spirit can improve depression for you and the recipient!)[7].

·         How much can you afford? Remember that random acts of kindness don’t have to cost a single cent. But some people have the means to offer monetary kindness. A good example of this is gifting a loved one with an Alert1 Medical Alert.

·         Can you make things with your hands? If you’re crafty, you might be able to create things that will bring joy and better help to others. For instance, knitting warm gloves for the homeless shelter or making a pair of pretty earrings can brighten someone’s day.

·         Do you have plenty of time? If you find you have a lot of time, you could spend some of it helping others who don’t have that kind of time. A good example is helping someone with their grocery shopping or watching a friend’s child or grandchild for a few hours so they can run some errands or just get some rest.

Kindness Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Though it’s good to know where your strengths lie and what you might be able to contribute, it’s also important to know that random acts of kindness are often spontaneous, anonymous, and quite simple. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.

Simple Acts of Kindness

·         Open the door for someone

·         Offer a compliment to a stranger

·         Let someone merge into your lane

·         Write a small note of encouragement and leave it in a public place for someone else to find

·         Let someone cut in front of you in line

·         Give a family caregiver a break for a few hours

·         Leave coupons next to items on the shelf at the grocery store

·         Write a thank you note to someone – your mail carrier, your lawn service, or even your boss

·         Give up your seat on a crowded bus

·         Help entertain a baby in a waiting room

·         Hold the elevator door for someone rushing to make it in time

·         Give up that prime parking spot to the car behind you

·         Ask a stranger how they are today – and stop to pay attention to the answer

·         Help someone carry their groceries to their car

·         Return an abandoned grocery cart to the front of the store

·         Give blood during your local donation drive

·         Donate your old glasses (your eye doctor can help you with this)

·         Donate your unwanted clothing to Goodwill or another charity

·         Play with the animals at the animal shelter

·         Volunteer for a shift in the soup kitchen

·         Sign up for the bone marrow registry

·         Donate your old blankets and towels to an animal shelter

Bigger Acts of Kindness

·         Over-tip the person who delivered your pizza

·         Pay for the meal of the person behind you at the drive-thru

·         Organize a donation drive for coloring books or toys for the local pediatric hospital

·         Participate in a charity walk

·         Donate a few of your paid days off to a co-worker who is struggling

·         Deliver treats to your local fire station and police department

·         Help a friend in need clean their house

·         Pet-sit for a friend while they take a much-needed vacation

·         Shovel snow from your neighbor’s driveway

·         Gift someone with a medical alarm for peace of mind

·         Make dinner for someone who is feeling overwhelmed

Even Bigger Acts of Kindness

·         Build a “free little library” or “blessing box” in your yard

·         Organize a neighborhood block party and invite everyone

·         Put together care packages for service members overseas

·         Fulfill a teacher’s Amazon wish list

·         Drive someone to where they need to go and treat them to lunch on the way back

·         Give concert or movie tickets to random strangers

·         Help install a ramp for your neighbor who has limited mobility

·         Leave money on a vending machine for someone

·         Donate to a scholarship fund

Though many of these acts can be anonymous, some of them can be shared. Invite a friend or family member to join you in showering random acts of kindness. You could even make a day of it – write out notes to leave for strangers, buy a few gift cards, bake some cookies, and hit the road! Distribute your kindness at a variety of places and talk about what you’re going to do next time. Simply inviting someone along with you to inspire them is an act of kindness in and of itself.

And what if you are homebound, quarantined in your home due to illness, or otherwise can’t get out? Use the power of communication to make a big impact. Call an old friend to say hello. Leave an encouraging voice mail for someone. Call a friend or family member simply to tell them that they are loved. Write a letter or two to those who need a boost of encouragement (More Love Letters is a wonderful website that connects letter writers with those that need letters). You can even knit or sew something beautiful and donate it with a request that they give it to someone who needs the mental health boost it can bring.

No matter what your random act of kindness might be, don’t forget about yourself. In addition to the feel-good hormones and wonderful health benefits you’ll get from giving, it’s important to give to yourself as well. So after you’ve spent time volunteering, take an hour for yourself to decompress. After all, you deserve some kindness too.

Wishing you health and happiness from Alert-1 Medical Alert Systems!