Spread the word

Are your grandparents or the elders in your life and community constantly being left out? Do they feel isolated by the community around them and maybe even by their family members?

Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) has said: “Whoever does not consider our elders as dignified and does not show kindness to our people who are yet to grow up, is not from our people […]. [Al Kāfī, Vol. 2, Ḥadīth #2]

How should we increase participation from our grandparents or our elders in both the community and at home?

Here are 10 ways you can help!

  1. Ask them!

When we think of the elders in our lives or community, we may think of so many ideas of how to better involve them, keep them engaged, and feel loved. A lot of the time these ideas can hit the mark or really miss crucial needs of those around you. Primarily, the most important thing you can do, either in a community setting or at home, is to ask those who you want to help – how they would feel most engaged and included in whichever format you are working in. Understand their needs directly from them and begin from their plan of increased inclusion and involvement. 

If the seniors or young at heart need some inspiration or some help with ideas, here are a few we’ve come up with to get you started! 

At the Masjid:

  1. Create Senior/Elder focused Events

Many times the events we create and focus on are for those who we wish to be most active and involved in the community – and most times that ends up being the younger population or the population that is most vocal. This can mean that seniors’ events are overlooked or not even thought of. For this reason, we encourage communities to have a committee or seniors who can help bring ideas to the table that would benefit their own demographic and at the same time give them a seat at the table of their community. This can look like a messaging group created for each gender to organize events for their own demographic, the link for the messaging group can then be shared at mosque programs. 

  1. Make the masjid/Imambargah Inclusive of seniors

The masjid or imambargah can oftentimes keep seniors in the back of the masjid or “out of the way” in order to make more space for other members of the community. Many times this is understandable given that seniors may generally sit on chairs and therefore it’s pertinent that they are in a space that doesn’t obstruct anyone else. Due to this, it may mean that they are pushed farther from the rest of the congregation. An option to keep seniors more included would be to have a space on the side of the hall instead of the back which allows them to feel more a part of the entire community and the programs. 

  1. Allow/Encourage them to Volunteer their time

All imambargahs have many tasks that need completing, whether they are administrative, people focused, day to day management, or event centered. It is important that these opportunities be offered to seniors in order to help them feel a part of the community and continuing to maintain their mental health through feeling like an integral and necessary part of the community. As we mentioned earlier, it is also important to create a committee of seniors who can advocate for the needs of the elders and allow their voices to be heard. 

  1. Maintain/Create facilities that help the differently abled 

If the imambargah or Islamic center is not a place that is accessible for seniors, then they will not be able to attend, which means they will not be included – even if you create events and committees for them. For this reason it is imperative that the community centers be accessible for all people, whether that means having elevators and ramps or accessible washroom facilities or spaces in the halls themselves to have a comfortable space to listen to the programs on both the mens and ladies sides. Helping seniors have the capability to comfortably exist in the masjid or imambargah is paramount to their involvement. 

At home:

When dealing with family members, it is necessary to stay mindful of concepts of ṣilatur raḥim (maintaining family relations) and upholding the rights of each family member. 

  1. Be mindful of their input and opinions

When in a joint family system or even when grandparents are living close by and have regular interactions with the rest of the family, it can mean that a lot of opinions are shared and sometimes can be difficult to constantly appease everyone. In these situations it is important to acknowledge, validate, and respect the opinions and inputs shared whilst also setting a boundary to what may be best for the nuclear family system.  

  1. Involve them in family events

Family events can be stressful times full of managing all sorts of details. It is also at these times when the grandparents in our lives want to feel loved through their involvement in a way that shows that they still matter and are cared for. During these events we can show them love through asking about their needs, prioritizing their seating, and checking in with them throughout an event. 

  1. Have regular family dinners

If grandparents live with you, whether in a joint arrangement or split home arrangement, it is important to still have them involved in family dinners. This can be a couple times a week or even once a week where everyone comes together and shares time eating a meal, sharing conversations, and genuinely making an effort to enjoy each other’s company. These efforts are so important for grandparents but equally so for grandchildren to see the importance of their grandparents in their lives. 

  1. Encourage children to play and spend 1:1 time with their grandparents

If you are living in one home with grandparents or where grandparents are accessible (living close by) it is so valuable to have grandchildren spend one on one time with them. This type of involvement may include having kids toys in the space where grandparents live or even having sleepovers with grandparents where they can take care of the grandchildren (if they wish to!). Of course if there are difficult relations between parents and grandparents, certain boundaries can be put into place and respectfully communicated to ensure that parenting choices are upheld.

  1. Encourage grandparents to participate in activities outside of the home that stimulate their minds and keep them active

Many times grandparents in the home can become isolated by the larger community. This can be due to physical incapabilities of involving themselves or a lack of encouragement from those around them to participate. For this reason it can be very valuable to help our elders to be involved. This may be through the local Muslim community through different volunteer opportunities, food banks, and events taking place, or even in the broader community through a wider range of volunteer opportunities (hospitals, food banks etc), seniors centers and activities, or classes to teach skills or hobbies. If the family system supports elder engagement, grandparents can be greatly involved in the community and have amazing mental and physical benefits through doing so. 

Growing old is a natural stage of life and the importance of helping those who reach that stage should be of utmost importance. We should not treat them with less importance, instead we should be empathetic and caring towards the elderly and remind ourselves that we will be in their shoes next, God-willing. Allah reminds us in the Holy Qur’an, “It is Allah Who created you in a state of (helpless) weakness, then gave (you) strength after weakness, then, after strength, gave (you weakness and a gray head: He creates as He wills, and it is He Who has all knowledge and power.” (Holy Qur’an 30:54)

Spread the word