As seniors age, they experience different living situations and greater life changes, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Research shows that one solution to the challenges seniors face can be as simple as a gesture of kindness. In fact, a study by Rutgers University demonstrates that the receipt of flowers decreases depression and encourages companionship as we age. The research also shows that seniors perform higher on everyday memory tasks and experience enriched personal memories in the presence of flowers.
As a society, it is important that we show the elderly they are loved and cared for. This past Valentine’s Day, the Society of American Florists did just that, as we gave roses and shared smiles and conversations with nearly 200 seniors in two assisted living communities in Alexandria, Virginia. Our “Cupid Crew” was among the 1,000 volunteers in dozens of events nationwide delivering 10,000 roses to senior citizens through the national wish-granting organization, Wish of a Lifetime.
In the Rutgers study, 81 percent of seniors reported a reduction in depression following the receipt of flowers. Forty percent of seniors reported broadening their social contacts beyond their normal social circle of family and close friends. And, 72 percent of the seniors who received flowers scored very high on memory tests in comparison with seniors who did not receive flowers.
These findings played out right before us as we handed these roses to seniors — their eyes lit up and many seemed genuinely appreciative of our gesture of compassion. This simple gesture of handing them a rose helped to open up communication and spur more lively conversation. It made a difference in their day.
It doesn’t take a lot to change a moment in time, as a little kindness goes a long way. Try it. Visit an elderly neighbor or your local senior center. Want to ensure smiles? Bring flowers.