Family reunions and other gatherings are a wonderful way to express our love for our family members. As families spend time together, they grow closer together and come to appreciate one another better. They are a great way to help your senior loved one bond with their family and keep their minds active and socially engaged.
Especially as the holidays approach, these fun gatherings can become more common, and may we add–a little more chaotic. As we stress over the small details of a gathering, we need to remember one of the most important details of that party: keeping your elderly loved one engaged.
For many seniors, especially those suffering from diseases, they can feel extra lonely and disconnected at family gatherings. While everyone is able to play a physical game or talk about a recent vacation, your loved one may lose interest and feel depressed.
While we understand that a senior is limited on things they can do, especially if they are ill, we also realize that they want to be involved and enjoy being with the family members as much as you do. You can help them be involved by trying out some of these proven ways:
Let them help prep
Everybody wants to feel useful and of help. By allowing your senior to help plan the food, or even set the table, they can feel utilized and engaged. Maybe your loved one likes to craft and can help prepare a placemat or a table centerpiece. Maybe they have a few family recipes up their sleeves they’d like to share, or even help you prepare! Whatever it is, by allowing them to help you are helping them feel important and keeping them engaged.
Review family albums
Who doesn’t like thumbing through old pictures and reminiscing about the fun they’ve had? Sharing family photo books or watching old videos is a great way to jog your loved one’s memory and provide the whole family with some fun stories. You might even learn a thing or two about your senior that you can connect with. Maybe you’ll learn how sassy grandma used to be, or where you got your good sense of humor from. This activity could end up being very entertaining for everyone involved.
Find ways to involve everyone
Sometimes it can be difficult for a younger child to bond with an elderly individual, especially if they don’t see them often. But every grandparent loves to watch their grandkids, so have the children put on a skit or show for everyone to enjoy. Young children have the ability to bring a smile to a senior’s face quickly. Babies have the same effect. If your loved one is capable, allow them to hold the baby and play with them.
Encourage everyone to take time to sit down and have a personal conversation with your senior. This will help them feel loved and relaxed. If it’s a struggle to come up with something to talk about, review some open-ended questions beforehand that will help you get to know them better. Often times, an elderly individual just wants to know how everyone else is doing, rather than focusing on their own personal needs. Don’t be afraid to talk with them like you would anybody else. A 5-10 minute conversation can really go far to helping your loved one feel engaged.
If possible (and if willing) allow your loved one to read a short story to the kids. Reading has many benefits for those involved–including helping young children learn to articulate and pronounce words clearly, engaging their minds and creativity, and unifying the reader to the children. It can be a great opportunity for kids to connect with your senior loved one.
Be sensitive to their needs
Throwing a bunch of people together in the same room can be both overwhelming and over-stimulating for an elderly person. If he is tired, allow him to rest in a quiet place away from everyone. He can rejoin the rest of the family when he’s feeling up to it.
Many elders have hearing aids and are sensitive to sound. If possible, try to keep volume levels down. If music is being played in the background, be careful to adjust it appropriately.
In addition, many seniors have dietary restrictions and have to eat a particular diet. Many also have dentures and can only eat soft foods. Be sure that your menu offers a good variety for both them, and the other members of the family.
Keeping your senior loved one involved at family gatherings is a great way to keep them happy and engaged. It’s also a great way to show them how important they are, and how much they are loved. We hope you enjoy your time together at these fun, worthwhile events!
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