|© Published October 8, 2009
By: Bob Grafe
In case you haven’t bothered to do the math, there are only 79 more days until Christmas and only 50 more days until Thanksgiving.
Sure, there are the usual planning panics about who is going to visit who — did the kids come here or did we go there last year? And, there is always the worry about this aunt or that grandfather or that allergy-prone 6-year-old who you recall have “special” dietary needs.
If only you could remember what they were!
For Thanksgiving there may be questions about who sits next to each other during the annual family feast around the extended table or tables. Certain relatives really should not be allowed in the same house together let alone in close proximity to each other where bodily harm is relatively easy to accomplish.
And, on Christmas there is always the question of do we or do we not exchange gifts. Should we just do a big “family” exchange where everyone only spends a limited amount of money for a gift … and everyone knows that certain “someone” who is either the family cheapskate or the family spendthrift who always either forgets or knowingly ignores the agreed upon gift-exchange “rules.”
Then there are those traditional family games to be planned. Maybe a flag football or softball game is scheduled. Some families are big into “board” games. For others, maybe a terrific football game on television is “game enough” after the nine-course turkey dinner is finished.
But, during all the upcoming holiday events, one item is often overlooked by very well-meaning holiday get-together hosts.
What to do with our elderly senior citizens to make the holiday experience pleasurable for them is often forgotten or puzzling during the planning process.
Here are some suggestions that will help your aging guests to not only feel more a part of the family’s holiday fun, but will also help them with limited exercise and assist them with keeping their minds working well — well into their advanced senior years.
Many seniors are not that familiar with the newer digital cameras. But, every family has someone (usually the “younger” generation) who knows the ins and outs of modern photography. That younger family member could let the senior “fiddle” with a digital camera to gain some familiarity. You may want to have previously taken some photos of the senior’s favorite items/places/persons and possibly show them as a slide show on a computer screen to let them see what can now be done in photography with little effort. Be sure to let the senior member of the family take some of the family’s holiday photos.
While you have the senior present, it is always a good time to make some notes or recordings of the senior for family history purposes.
You might ask them who was their best friend and why? What games did they like to play in their youth and older? What was the best birthday present they ever got? Did they ever have a nickname? This could be a very engaging and a priceless memory for the entire family.
Some of our seniors had companion pets for many years and now miss them. It might be possible to “borrow” a gentle puppy or kitten for the day and allow the senior to enjoy the company of a pet while also enjoying a holiday visit.
For more active seniors a favorite game is bingo. To make the game fun for the entire family, a visit to the local “dollar” store can provide a wide variety of inexpensive yet practical (or just fun) prizes.
Another fun activity for seniors and others is to have every guest provide a baby picture of themselves. Mix up the photos on a table (face up) and have everyone write down on a separate piece of paper who they think the baby is. Read the answers aloud and enjoy the frequently funny responses to the wrong guesses.
Often, these photos will remind the seniors of old times and they may enjoy telling a story of where they were living, and with whom, when the baby pictures were taken. They might be asked to then tell about what was going on in the world (historically) when they were born and during their childhood years.
Even singing old-time songs — like In the Good Ol’ Summertime — will help seniors to be involved and to recall pleasant experiences.
Early barbershop quartet songs and campfire songs also tend to keep the senior engaged and tend to help with memory functions as they participate and enjoy the singing together with other family members.
The important thing to remember as we close in on the traditional holiday season and begin our “get-together” planning, is that our elderly seniors really do want to be part of the festivities — even if their participation is relatively limited.