Helping Others Can Ease Bouts of Boredom

Helping Others Can Ease Bouts of Boredom

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


Are we there yet? I’m bored, there is nothing to do!

Have you ever heard these words from a child? If you have raised children and have ever taken them for a ride, I guarantee that you probably have. When our children had all grown up, we thought we had heard them for the last time. But then along came the grandchildren! It tickled me to hear my daughter, who now has three children of her own, say:

“I don’t understand. They have their electronic games, movies, and what have you—all of them in the car. Why do they get so restless?” 

It’s an age-old question that probably dates back to similar conversations in the Stone Age, as our forebears traveled, looking for food and shelter. There is a restlessness about us that is real. We always seem to want that which we cannot have. We want things to be the way “they used to be.” We want to be as physically able as we were. We want to live where we have always lived. No one wants to be confined in any way. Yet what do we do about the fact that we cannot have these things?

Older adults are often victims of this syndrome. So much of their familiar routine is different. Abilities can change. Health can change. On the list goes! Often feeling sorry for themselves, they give way to idleness, rather than finding a new way to be creative and alive. How do we enable those caught in this mood to deal with the inevitable changes that cause them to feel confined and limited?

Whining and complaining doesn’t help. Nor does patiently listening to them do so! Listening is important, but it is equally important to enable a different direction. Anyone who has spent time in a car with a youngster knows the art of doing just that.

“Let’s play a new game . . . let’s see who can count the most red cars!” 

“Let’s see who can go the longest without saying a word!”

My favorite antidote to the adult version of “I’m Bored” is a method I use constantly in my role as director of Spiritual Life. Knowing that helping someone else always lifts one’s spirit; my antidote is to ask a question. “We really need someone to . . . would you do this for me!” I keep a mental list of possibilities for volunteering at all times, offering the bored older adult a task he or she would be able to do. Simple acts, such as making an unexpected phone call or dropping a note to someone, or folding flyers for an event, or whatever else might need to be done are among my requests. Getting a yes not only lifts the person’s spirit; it actually helps those around, creating an attitude of caring and sharing. 

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2013 Rev. James Stinson