Spending time with family, especially children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, can be joyous for our senior loved ones.
Family activities and togetherness benefit our seniors and the rest of the family in many ways.
Besides happiness, they can relieve stress, brighten a mood, increase physical activity and provide much needed socialization.
Seniors also can give back to the grandchildren by sharing their life experiences, knowledge, customs and traditions; teaching important life skills; promoting positive insights about aging or disabilities; and encouraging kids to be good people by modeling good behavior.
Being needed by others, knowing someone is there for us, and sharing common interests are what family is about. Caregivers can improve the quality of life of their senior loved ones by providing many opportunities for family get-togethers.
Hopefully spending time with kids and grandkids won’t be limited to holidays, but can be a regular event.
When we do have the opportunity to come together as a family, we want to make the most of our time. We often look for experiences to share and memories to make!
Here are some ideas for activities that everyone can enjoy:
- Cooking – there are so many ways that you can share the kitchen with elders and kids (old and young). You can simply prepare a meal as a group or create something special. Cookies that need decorating, vegetables that need to be washed, and bread that can be kneaded. Make a favorite traditional recipe or find a new one to test out. Designate taste testers who can evaluate the chef’s skills.
- Jokes – tell each other jokes. There are always old standbys, new ones the kids are learning or those you can read in books or on the internet. Here are a couple oldies but goodies to break the ice. Somehow they always bring a chuckle or a smirk, at least when told to grandparents!
What is black and white and read all over? Newspaper
Knock Knock Who’s There? Boo Boo Who? Don’t Cry
- Crafts – Create art projects, make gift cards, color pictures, make a birdhouse with popsicle sticks, paint a picture or a ton of other fun craft ideas that everyone can join in and share the fun. Once you make a craft project, you can share with other family members or display proudly to be a reminder of the day spent together. Sometimes our senior loved ones have special skills they can pass along to us, such as crocheting, knitting, or oil painting. Seize the time to learn before it is too late!
- Nature Walk – Go on a walk around the block, neighborhood, or local park. Bring a bag or notebook to pick up what you find or record what you see and hear. Perhaps your senior or teen can identify trees, flowers, birds, bugs or butterflies. What are their names and colors? Later you can use the treasures you found to make art projects like picture frames or paint a picture of the bluebird catching the wiggly worm you saw on your walk. Be mindful of the distance and terrain so that it will be appropriate for all ages and abilities.
- Music – Singalong, play your favorite music, and dance to the beat. If anyone plays a musical instrument, let them put on a concert. Sing your favorite tunes, do rounds of row row row your boat and see who loses their place first! Have a dance off or learn how to waltz. Your senior loved ones would love to share some of their favorite dances such as the Charleston, Boogie Woogie, Shag or Square Dance to eager kids. Play their favorites and talk about the memories they evoke.
- Movie Time – Sitting on the couch, sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching your favorite movies can be enjoyable for everyone, especially after a long day. It could be an old movie, a Disney classic or the latest release. It doesn’t matter as long as it is appropriate for the whole audience.
- Story Time – Get your favorite books and read together. We love this because you also get a good snuggle! Read aloud from a classic such as Tom Sawyer and read a chapter each time you visit. Let someone be a storyteller and make up a great adventure! Many seniors are pretty good about telling stories. You can have a list of ideas and each person can get inspired or start one story and let each person add to it.
- Play a board or card game – Depending on the age of the child, there are many games that can hold our attention and lead to laughs like Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Uno, Checkers, Candyland or Monopoly. Who will break the bank or get to Candy Mountain first? You could also play on a game system, such as Wii or Playstation, challenging the group to team tennis, bowling or other exer-games.
- Garden – Plant seeds or flowers, rake leaves or water the garden. There are many things you can do in the yard or playing in the dirt where everyone can take an active role. Seniors often have a wealth of knowledge gardening that they can share. What did they grow in their vegetable garden? What flowers are their favorites in the spring?
- Road trip – Go to a museum or community event. Find a fun thing to do in your area perhaps a bowling alley, miniature golf course or fair.
Remember to consider the ability levels of everyone, not only of the children involved, attention spans and ability to sit still for a period of time.
Be sure to consider the ability of your senior to participate. Don’t select activities that may be frustrating to them due to cognitive loss or embarrass them when they can’t remember the rules of a game or how many they rolled on their turn.
You want to keep the time fun and entertaining, not exhausting and over stimulating to the point of poor behavior or frustration.
Turn Activities into Lasting Memories
Don’t forget to take many photos of the family interacting. Share them later or even use the photos to make albums or collages when you get together next time!
It’s true that getting together and being active is fun but doing nothing together sometimes can be fun too! Activities don’t have to break the budget and in fact, don’t have to cost a penny.
Activities created on the spur of the moment can be some of the most enjoyable and memorable.
Some benefits of spending time together as a family include talking, communicating (remember, it’s not all words) and even learning from each other.
Live each moment and find ways to ask questions and spur discussions that will lead to fun reminiscences of times past and forming common memories that build stronger bonds for the future.