Staying Connected With Our Aging Seniors

I’m convinced that my parents are most happy when they are socially engaged with other people. Whether with the occasional stopover from a neighbor, or visits from friends, their adult children or grandchildren – they become more vibrant both physically and mentally with social companionship.

Family visitation can be difficult — living 600 miles apart makes this difficult to accomplish more than 1-4 times per year. So what can I do to create a social environment for two people who are effectively housebound? My solution…? I have hired “senior personal aides”  similar to the services of my own private duty homecare agency. This enables me to gain some control and involvement in their household existence.  Caregivers provide some social assistance, plus the extra benefit of some functional help around the house. Phone calls can get screened; laundry can be done; transportation/companionship to physician appointments is accomplished.

From long distance, my approach has been to stay connected in other ways. I make multiple phone calls per week to simply check-in, and say “hello.” I encourage grandchildren to email those tech savvy seniors who have embraced a personal computer in their home. We also send photos along to grandparents, knowing that they enjoy the pictures and feel more connected to the lives of all their offspring.

Youth Versus Experience

No one looks forward to losing the qualities of youth — whether eyesight, walking/balance, energy, mental acuity, or physical abilities. And many times this natural aging can bring sadness and depression. But our seniors do have many positive abilities to contribute – such as time, resourcefulness, and the abilities to adjust and compensate. AND, elders have the experiences that life and age have given them.

Perhaps your mother has always enjoyed gardening. But now, her knees and hands just can’t do what she used to be able to in the backyard. How about sending her some house plants to spruce up the house? Or, you can work together on planting seedlings indoors. Then she can water and tend to the plants, and you can help transfer into the yard when the weather warms up.

There are many ways for seniors to stay involved in community. They can give some of their time. Volunteers are always welcome at local schools. (Instead of the school administration being pulled away to watch over cafeteria duty, a senior volunteer might fill that role perfectly.) Or there may be church activities. Library volunteer staffing. Many seniors volunteer to deliver “meals on wheels” to home-bound elders. Or drive the local van for disabled adults/children.

Aging & Life Long Learning

New learning activities can be very fulfilling. My mother joined an “investment club” years ago, whose members included many acquaintances and some new faces. Every month the members got together to review stock investments, and look over new opportunities. Not only was it an educational forum to participate in the world of investments, but it was fun due to the camaraderie and planning process. And they made a little money in the process!

My father enjoys reading, and has always been interested in U.S. history – specifically the Civil War and WWII. His DVD collection is bigger than mine. You can bet that on every family occasion, whether birthdays or holidays, he receives some new book or video to immerse himself in.

Rekindling well worn activities can be fun, also. Encourage active seniors to join the local bowling league, golf, lawn bowling, or any other community activity. This gets them out them out of the house; encourages socialization; results in some physical exercise; and dusts off some old skills. Or maybe the weekly bridge club will bring everyone together. Life long learning is an attitude. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Remember, sometimes it’s easiest to help in small stages. And providing in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help can yield great benefits. Positive gestures can become significant building blocks when helping your elderly parents. And you all may appreciate the quality it brings to your family.