Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and the first three day weekend in months for many in the US.
Yes, we know it’s more than that, don’t we.
Many of us pause to think about the men and women who paid the ultimate price in the protection of our freedom. We fly our flags and maybe go to a local ceremony.
Then we move on to our cookouts and other holiday weekend activities.
That’s not the Memorial Day of many of our senior loved ones – – not even close!
Meaning of Memorial Day for Many Seniors
For many seniors, Memorial Day is a very personal holiday. Some of them are veterans who remember, not just on this day but most others too, those whose lives they saw being taken around them on the field of battle. Many more lost family members or friends who were serving their country.
More than 1.5 million of our oldest seniors are among the 16 million who served in our armed forces in World War II. These members of the “Greatest Generation” are joined by millions more seniors who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
More than 400,000 US service members lost their lives during that war, as did thousands more who would be seniors today if they hadn’t been killed in Korea or Vietnam.
It is the memory of those men and women that makes Memorial Day so special to our senior loved ones and many younger Americans.
Seniors’ Memorial Day Traditions
There are a number of ways our seniors observe Memorial Day, with many traditions originating in childhood. Your senior loved ones may still participate in one or more of these.
- Fly their flag. This is an every day tradition for many veterans and other seniors, though on Memorial Day they may lower the flag to half mast until noon.
- Visit the grave site of veterans, especially those at one of the national or state cemeteries that are special resting places for those who served in our military.
- Place a flag and/or flowers on the graves of family members or friends — sometimes also the graves of other veterans, so that all are remembered.
- Attend a special Memorial Day service in memory of those who have given their lives in service to the US.
- View, or even participate in, a local Memorial Day parade to honor the fallen.
- Visit with veterans or the families of those who lost someone in the service.
- Reminisce about those family members and friends they lost, telling stories and sharing pictures.
You may also find your senior loved ones observing Memorial Day on May 30 in addition to – or instead of – the Monday holiday. This was the traditional Memorial Day observance, before it was moved to create a long weekend.
Joining Seniors in Their Traditions
Family caregivers who join senior loved ones in their Memorial Day observances are demonstrating to the seniors just how important they and their feelings are to us.
Memorial Day can be a hard time for many seniors, even if they don’t let it show. Having a family member on whom they can lean can help make the day easier and even create new memories for everyone involved.
Many seniors have difficulty getting out to participate in the traditions that are still important to them, which can make them feel even worse about the day, especially if they are alone with their thoughts all day.
Do you know how your senior traditionally observed Memorial Day? If you don’t, just ask them. The simple question can result in them sharing stories and other memories from earlier days, sometimes revealing things you might not have known about them.
Observances in Many Communities
Not sure what to do for and with your senior loved one on Memorial Day? Learn about the observances that are local and invite the senior to join you.
They may not want to burden you by asking you to join them or take them but really appreciate your offer.
Are you a long distance family caregiver, living far from your senior? They might be truly touched if you participate in one of the observances in your local community and share your experience and pictures with them.
If practical, include younger members of the family in the observances as well. Your senior loved one will appreciate the opportunity to share with grandchildren or great grandchildren and the young ones will learn something about their elder family members. They might also learn a little about the history of the nation as they watch a parade or learn about a war with their beloved seniors.
Remember, fallen service members gave their lives for us and our younger family members as well, even if they didn’t know us!
You don’t have to cancel the cookouts or family outings, just don’t forget to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day.