Engaging Seniors Builds Stronger Communities
Like many celebrations, Older Americans Month, sponsored in May by the Administration for Community Living, may look a little different this year. Yet as Americans begin to rebound from the pandemic, observances such as these take on added significance given the toll on the elderly who were particularly hard hit by COVID-19. While community gatherings may still be limited in scope, there are ways to recognize and honor older Americans. With many Americans now fully-vaccinated, here are some suggestions from the Administration for Community Living for ways to celebrate together:
- Pack a few snacks or a meal, get in the car and head for a park or a drive outside the city. Use Google Maps to explore an old neighborhood or home town.
- Pick a favorite childhood food item your mother made for you and ask her to teach you how to make it, such as her lasagna, her chocolate chip cookies, anything!
- Get a few DVD’s of your father’s favorite actor and spend an afternoon watching them together. Don’t forget the snacks!
- Start a new tradition and have a “game night” with your older relatives.
- Create your own family book club and enjoy reading and discussing books together.
- Visit an outdoor restaurant or coffee shop, someplace no one has gone before, and start a new tradition.
- Spend some time helping your older parents organize their boxes of photos.
- Have older adults start walking as a daily habit and join them as much as possible. Walking is important for everyone and especially for seniors. A Fitbit could be a good gift.
- Follow England’s tradition of an afternoon tea as a lovely way to spend time together.
- Enjoy a hobby or arts and crafts project with an elder relative. Some of the most important life lessons are learned while working together on these kinds of tasks.
- Work on puzzles as a wonderful way to spend quality time together.
- Introduce seniors to Yoga or Chair Yoga (if they aren’t already doing it).
- If an older adult loves pets, visit a pet shelter or help them to foster a loving pet.
- Give the gift of time by spending one day a month being a “handyman” at your older relatives’ home or taking time to help them clean out closets, drawers, the garage, etc.
- Put together a cookbook of favorite family recipes.
- Join aging relatives who enjoy playing musical instruments for a “jam session” or come together to listen to their favorite artists and/or introduce them to new music they might enjoy. Music can fill the soul!
- If your elder relatives haven’t yet written their stories, consider working together on this project. If you aren’t into writing things down, consider “interviewing” them and videotaping it. This is a great way to learn more about your legacy and to discover new things about your parents or other senior adults in your life.
No matter what you choose to do, any time spent with older adults can be engaging for all. Research supports that communities which encourage the contributions of older adults are stronger and that older adults contribute to the vitality of neighborhoods, networks and lives.