As the world faces a third wave of COVID-19, we notice that yet again the most vulnerable in society are left isolated and alone, in particular, the elderly.
We read about stories from the first lockdown of how the elderly had to self-isolate and not see their families for months. This can have an overwhelming impact on them in the long run as isolation and loneliness overtake them.
In Islam, we are taught that the elderly are to be honoured and respected. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “He is not one of us who does not show tenderness to the young and does not show respect to the elder.” [Hadith from at-Tirmidhi]
We are taught the importance of taking care of each other and making sure no one is suffering or left alone. The elderly have a dignified and protected status in Islam, and what’s more, they have rights that we should adhere to. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, God appoints someone to honor him in his old age.” [Hadith from At-Tirmidhi]. It is a matter of treating people how you would want to be treated when you reach that age inshAllah.
So what can we do in a pandemic to help the elderly? Please bear in mind, this applies to all elderly who live near you, not just Muslims.
1. Do Grocery Shopping For Them
In many areas the elderly will be asked to self-isolate altogether so that they don’t go out of their homes at all. After all, they are extremely vulnerable to this disease more so than the youth. This task is so simple for us we can grocery shop for any elderly relative or neighbour in our area so that they don’t have to worry about how they will get their food and things for the house.
2. Cook Them Meals
If they live alone, they may not want to cook every day and their pension may not allow them to bulk buy food whilst they have to isolate. We can bulk cook meals for them so that they can freeze them and just take out the freezer and heat up when they are needed. We can do this for our elderly relatives and neighbours.
3. Offer to Pay Bills
We can offer to take their bills to be paid so that they don’t have to worry about it. Or, if they are quite tech savvy, and some are, we can set up online payments for them so it is easier.
4. Chat with Them Whilst Social Distancing
If we have elderly relatives, we can call them on the phone. We can also set up Facetime or Whatsapp for them and video chats as if we are in the same room with them. It is not the same as, but it will make them feel valued and not forgotten. If we have neighbours, we can knock on their doors and have a chat, whilst social distancing, so they don’t feel alone and isolated.
5. Offer to Do Their Laundry
We can’t go inside their house and clean it, but we can offer to do their laundry. We can take it once a week and wash it when we wash our own. This also includes their bedding and towels so that they feel they always have something fresh and clean to use.
6. Pay for Cable/Tablet
The elderly often rely on TV. It is their friend. Maybe they can’t afford cable TV or Netflix or whatever else. Here we can pay for cable for them so they have a variety of channels to watch and if we have a little more money, we can gift them with a tablet so they can watch Netflix or some streaming service as well as play games and even use the internet. It is a lonely time for them if they can’t get out, so it is good to get them some kind of entertainment.
7. Find Out Their Hobbies and Bring Them Gifts
They will want things to do if they are in the house all day by themselves. Find out what their hobbies are and then bring them gifts to do with those hobbies. Maybe they like to do puzzles, knit, crochet, do crosswords or build models. In this case we can buy them hobby-orientated gifts so that they have plenty to do in the house.
8. Make Sure They Know You Are There
We can’t be with them 24/7 and we can’t necessarily be in the same house with them. However, we can let them know we are always there. Let them have your phone number, call them, facetime time, knock on their doors. Do as much contact as you can with them so they feel loved and not forgotten.
It is a difficult time for all of us, but it is our duty to look after the most vulnerable in society and protect them as much as we can. These things may seem so simple to us and they won’t take up much of our time. But for the elderly people in our lives, it will mean the world to them to know they are cared for and loved. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Every act of kindness is charity.” We will not only be benefitting our elderly loved ones and neighbours, but we will gain reward for our own akhira (Hereafter).