Help make the holiday season pleasant for the elderly. Individuals and small groups are needed to visit and befriend elderly individuals.

"Many of the residents don't have families," said Andi Hargrove, activities director at Crestview Convalescent Center in Provo. "The holidays can be pretty lonely."Hargrove said volunteers are welcome any time to visit the residents. People who want to volunteer at an elderly care center can arrange visits by contacting United Way of Utah County.

Volunteers can visit residents on a one-on-one basis or in small groups. One-on-one visits can be helpful because residents feel like they are genuinely cared for as individuals. Groups can provide entertainment, games and social activities.

"Residents love to hear music, especially during the holiday season," Hargrove said. Volunteers can also read Christmas stories to the residents and help them address Christmas cards or write letters.

Nikki Stoddard, manager of Seville Retirement Residence in Orem, said volunteers also can help by running holiday errands for residents.

"A lot of times, seniors aren't able to get out and purchase gifts or wrap them," Stoddard said. "Their age precludes them from getting out."

An important thing to remember is to keep visiting the elderly, even after the holidays are over. Many nursing homes get an abundance of visitors during the holidays but lack for help once the season is over.

One resident at East Lake Care Center said she loved having visitors at Christmas time, but she felt bad when holiday volunteers stopped coming.

Opportunities to help the elderly during the holidays and throughout the year are listed below.

- Decorate a local nursing home. Make and donate holiday decorations. Visit the nursing home personally to put up the decorations in patients' rooms or in common areas.

- Adopt a grandparent. Take an individual from a local nursing home into your home for the holidays.

- Assemble care baskets. Homebound elderly people need items such as non-perishable food items, slippers and health and beauty products.

- Care for elderly individuals in your neighborhood. Take the time to visit with and help elderly individuals whom you know.

They may need help shoveling sidewalks or running holiday errands. Many senior citizens who live at home on their own need the support of loved ones and friends.

For more information about helping the elderly during the holidays, or other volunteer opportunities, call the United Way Volunteer Center at 374-8108, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.