Fans of the Star Trek TV series will likely recall the captain’s keyword to propel the Enterprise into space: “Engage!” It’s the key to spreading cheer with older adults, too.
Taking the time to truly engage and spend quality time with our parents can bring a lot of joy to you and your family. It’s also during this time that we get a true understanding of how our parents are getting along as they age.
The truth of the matter is we’ll all need a little assistance as we age, but at some point, that assistance might become important to our safety, well-being, and even simple quality of life. This revelation often comes during a visit and often involves the whole family.
Even in this moment of change and transition, there’s often relief and cheer, if handled in a loving and open way with your parents and family.
Here are several ways to add joy and cheer as we age, not just for your own beloved older relatives, but for your entire extended family as well:
- Spend time together. The greatest gift you can give anyone — especially elderly people who may have lost many friends to death or distance — is your time and attention. Visiting elderly friends and relatives will be rewarding for you, too. The more time you spend with your older family members, the more you’ll learn about your relatives and ancestry. Someday you’ll pass this family history to your own children and grandchildren.
You may be surprised by what you discover about a parent or other loved one. One woman was amazed to find she was still learning new information about her 95-year-old dad! His memory for events that took place long before she was born was both enlightening and heartwarming.
This time spent together with loved ones and family can also make us aware and more open to conversations of continuing care. As our loved ones’ age, they often need more support, care, or even companionship than a family can consistently provide.
Often times a transition to assisted living or memory care gives your loved ones a greater sense of community and security. At the same time, the family gets more time and opportunity to enjoy quality time with their loved one instead of constantly being focused on daily care.
- Involve the grandchildren. Take every opportunity to bring the generations together and let your kids spend quality time with their grandparents and other older relatives.
Not only do children lift senior spirits, but they’ll also get the chance to bond with the people who raised their parents, and hear stories about what Mom and Dad were like at that age. Listening to tales from “the olden days” might seem like ancient history to them, though it can prove fascinating as well: yes, once upon a time we had to lift a receiver to dial a telephone by hand, rather than simply tapping a screen.
Bridging the generations can also have a powerful effect on kids. One boy relates how the senior he was paired within a unique school “buddy” program between children and elders taught him how to persevere through obstacles, never give up, and “when you do a job, do a good job” — invaluable life skills that all children need but do not always receive.
Grandparents and the grandkids alike often find that they have more time to enjoy one another as they transition to a senior community, as the mundane daily chores of maintaining a home are accommodated.
- Invite the purrrfect guest. If you have a family pet, make sure your dog or kitty is part of all your family gatherings. Pets are increasingly central to cognitive therapy and senior living communities, like ours – The Kensington White Plains.
Numerous studies have shown that having a pet helps:
- Decrease stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Ease pain
- Lower cholesterol
- Enhance social interaction
- Improve disposition and mood
- Improve immunity
- Soothe sundowning
- Increase motivation
In fact, assisted living and memory care communities nationwide recognize that pet therapy enables seniors to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Over the last decade, the number of assisted living communities that welcome pets have expanded along with the aging population. Our own Curry the Cat is an all-natural stress reducer and morale booster for Kensington residents.
- Create a video biography. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to capture your loved one’s voice, image and personality with a smartphone or other device. Think about how much fun it will be to preserve your loved one’s stories for future generations.
You might ask your senior relative some questions about their life, particularly about the era prior to what anyone alive now remembers. Many milestone memories are anchored between the ages of 10 and 30 — and this is also where you may uncover stories you’re not familiar with, simply because the subject has never come up. The woman mentioned above heard a heartwarming tale of her father and his father assembling her parents’ bed in their first apartment, the night before they were to be married.
- Gaining cheer from others. One of the biggest benefits to seniors in assisted living and memory care communities is social and uplifting engagement with other residents – friends and companions – in their community. Scientific research shows that acts of generosity and giving back are linked to health benefits such as lower blood pressure and decreased mortality. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, who has been studying the effects of positive emotions on the brain since the 1990s, says the brain behaves differently during an act of generosity than when we do something for ourselves.
A few creative ways we’ve seen aging loved one spread cheer to others include:
- Leaving anonymous kind notes in library books, and in their mailbox for the postal person
- Leaving sweet treats on a neighbor’s doorstep
- Donating goods to charity and homeless shelters
Decorate! Do your aging loved ones enjoy all the seasonal colors, lights, and joie de vivre? Bring this glam into their living space. Helping them deck out their home or new assisted living suite at a senior living community for each new season. The Kensington loves to encourage decorating as a way to continue and share traditions that folks have probably held since childhood. Art, crafts, gifts, knick knacks, garland, clothing, music, and photos enable older adults to recall past traditions and share new ones.
How The Kensington Spreads Cheer with Your Loved Ones
Here at The Kensington White Plains, we’ve created the ideal environment to spread cheer throughout the year. Our elegant community, located just 25 miles north of New York City, offers the epitome of refined retirement— as well as enhanced assisted living and memory care to support true aging in place.
We know that a pivotal aspect of healthy aging is staying active and building and maintaining friendships. Toward this end, we schedule outings several days each week and maintain a full calendar of activities. Our life enrichment coordinators keep residents’ schedules as full as they want them to be while encouraging participation and supporting independence.
We invite you to visit us soon and discover how The Kensington can help make 2020 a wonderfully welcoming year for your loved one.