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Giving to Our Elders – The Importance of Reciprocity When Giving

Importance of Reciprocity - 365give
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International Day of the Elderly is coming up and we know that giving is a great way to celebrate. We examine in this post giving ideas for our elders and the importance of reciprocity! Giving and reciprocity go hand and in hand and we are going to show you why!

What is reciprocity and why is it important in a relationship?

Reciprocity is the balance of giving and receiving in a relationship with the goal of creating a healthy and mutually beneficial partnership.

Mutually Beneficial – That’s the Importance of Reciprocity

For example, if you bring a favourite magazine you’ve already read, to your grandmother and she gives you an old, favourite book she’s read, that’s positive reciprocity. The exchange is equal and gives you both pleasure.

The news is that  now it has been proven that not only does your grandmother feel warm and cozy from the exchange,  it’s actually good for her health and well-being.

Most of us believe that our elders need to be taken care of.  Most of us try to give them the care they deserve.  We’re not always successful.  Busy-ness is usually our excuse.  We plan to call Granny on the weekend, maybe even go and see her. But the project at work overlapped onto Saturday and then the gang is going to the game on Sunday. Besides, does it really matter to her?

When we do get a chance and make that call or that contact, Granny is happy to hear from us. And that makes us feel good about ourselves. We’ve done our duty. We’ve made an old person feel special. We can pat ourselves on the back. We say: “I think it does more for me than for her.”

 Science Says Something Different – The Importance of Reciprocity

But that’s not true. In research entitled “The Surprise of Reaching Out: Appreciated More Than We Think”, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was found that the feelings on the receiving end are even deeper than we imagined — even deeper than the giver’s.  This ties into the opinion of Gordon Flett, Canada Research Chair in personality and health at York University, Toronto.  Flett’s specialty in research is “Mattering” – the idea that we actually matter to others.  He says: “When people feel like they matter, it predicts positive things like social support or having a sense of purpose.”

So back to the importance of reciprocity; we visit Granny and tell her everything that’s going on with us. We feel really good about the visit and likely forget about it soon after. But it goes beyond that one visit for her.  It means she matters. She’s a part of your busy world.

“Mattering” could be one of the most important factors in mental health — it’s connected to self-esteem on the positive side, and depression and suicidal ideation on the negative side. If our visit means Granny realizes she matters, then she feels a sense of purpose, she feels she has support and that she can reach out if she needs something.

You get something out of it, but she gets even more.

Ways to Offer Reciprocity – The Continued Importance of Reciprocity and Giving Ideas

Now that we’ve talked about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, let’s look at ‘how’.  Here are some examples of reciprocity with our elders.

  1. When you call or visit someone, make sure you have enough time for a good catch-up.  It doesn’t help if you have to cut someone off too soon.
  2. You know your aging father always liked to work in his carpentry studio, so bring him a carpentry magazine and ask him to tell you some things that he loves about the skill. You learn something and he gets a kick out of providing the lesson.
  3. The senior woman next door has trouble taking her dog for a walk. Offer to take him in exchange for some herbs she grows in her back yard.
  4. Ask your grandmother about her history. What does she know about her great grandparents.  Her history is your history too.
  5. Bring out the pictures. Elders usually love going through old photographs and identifying who’s in them. Ask them who you look like from the past. Bring her something that reminds her of her past

Learn more about reciprocity  from “The Very Well Mind” website.  This will give you more examples of reciprocity with others and how you can attain it.

Looking for more giving ideas? Check out more articles on our blog and find more giving ideas that will get you in the habit of small gives every day! It is easier than you think and the benefits resonate across your community.

Nancy Miller
Nancy Miller
I am a senior with a history of writing and volunteering. I have 2 teen novels published and I am currently writing a third, plus translating one book into a musical stage play. For 25 years I owned a marketing communications agency serving a variety of not-for-profit clients. I’ve always believed that volunteering is important to a balanced life. Over the years, I’ve volunteered for every kind of group, from international aid to local social services. Not only are you helping out, but the good feeling you get in return pays back 10-fold.

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