It’s more than simply a case of mind over matter: a senior citizen who is active and happy tends to have innumerable health advantages over one who is reclusive and idle. A healthy senior is one who feels well-loved. “Studies show that older adults who have consistent social interaction and strong interpersonal relationships are likely to live longer with fewer illnesses than those who feel isolated and lonely,” said Janet Alonzo of Continuity Care Home Health Agency.
Any day is a perfect opportunity for families to show the senior adults in their lives just how much they care about them. It’s also a chance to nurture a lasting bond between grandparents and grandchildren — while giving their primary caregiver a much needed break.
Alonzo suggested six ways, big and small, to help seniors connect with their families:
Share a Meal.
Not just any old meal. Serve some of Grandma’s own well-loved recipes, or, better yet, have her supervise the cooking process. Teaching grandchildren how to make a family favorite casserole or pie is a priceless memory, said Alonzo.
Extra points: Create a set of placemats in advance for the occasion using construction paper and copies of family photos, both old and new. Slip them inside clear plastic sleeves, available at an office supply store, for easy cleanup.
Help Gramps Go High-Tech.
Some seniors are intimidated by technology, said Alonzo, but often all it takes is a short one-on-one tutorial from their tech-savvy grandchildren to make them feel comfortable. Grandkids can help them set up instant messaging, a Facebook or Instagram account, or practice basic texting so that grandparents can keep in touch.
Extra points: Show grandparents how to use Google Hangouts so they can “meet” with all the grandkids at one time and chat online. Or sign them up for one of the growing number of family-centric online services, such as Panasonic’s HomeTeam, where, for a membership fee, grandparents and grandkids can play online games, read online books and message together.
Take a Drive Down Memory Lane.
Alonzo said that one of the keys to preventing depression in the elderly is getting them out of the house and their same old routine. She suggests taking grandparents on a field trip to the home where they grew up, a school they attended or other memorable spots from their youth. The stories generated from such a trip could be priceless.
Get to the Root of Things.
Break out the old family photo albums and enlist Grandma’s help in labeling them on the back with informational notes so that grandkids can put names with faces. Create a family tree by filling in the blanks on a printed template, or use a genealogy website such as Ancestry.com. Grandkids can conduct “interviews” with grandparents about their lives and record them on video or audio.
Sometimes Simple is Best.
Even if Grandpa is not into technology, families who are separated geographically can still make the day special. “Sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call or a handwritten letter is a precious lifeline.” Alonzo said special packages containing a hand-drawn poster or homemade book from the grandkids are especially prized, because of the love and care that went into making them. Grandparents can post them in prominent places and refer to them again and again.
Above All, Make the First Move.
Alonzo stressed that, even if people are not especially close to their parents, there is no better day to take the first meaningful steps toward a stronger relationship. “When you open the door a little wider, you are also making it possible for grandparents to share more special moments with their grandkids. And that could be the best health boost you could ever give them.”
Continuity Care Home Health Agency, LLC is a family owned and operated, fully licensed agency that is Medicare certified and JCAHO accredited, providing skilled in-home nursing care and rehabilitation as a result of an injury, stroke or other condition and serving Kingwood, Humble, Spring, The Woodlands and Houston area populations with compassion, dignity and respect. For more information on the agency or its services, please visitwww.CCareHomeHealth.com or call 281-348-2328.