Human connections do more than make life fun – they actually keep us healthy. Spending quality time with an older loved one and encouraging children to get to know their aging extended family can be so rewarding for everyone involved.
Here are a few simple ideas for sparking unforgettable conversations and creating mementos that will last a lifetime.
1. Break out the photo album.
Now that the vast majority of our photos only ever exist digitally, there is something deeply nostalgic about flipping through old pictures. Going back in time with your senior loved one will give you an incredible opportunity to uncover history and get the stories behind the photographs first-hand.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia often find pursuing old pictures enjoyable, even if they struggle to access long-term memories. Recalling exact details is less important than reliving the feelings associated with happy moments.
2. Make a video diary.
Whether you’ve known your aging loved one your entire life or gotten close to them only recently, there are probably questions you would love to ask them. Older people have a unique perspective on family history as well as world events. They have a lifetime of direct experience and, undoubtedly, stories to tell.
Getting these conversations on video not only preserves them – it captures the real essence of your loved one in ways that letters and pictures can’t. Their voice, mannerisms, and way of speaking are all part of what makes them unique.
3. Collect treasured recipes.
So much of life is lived through food. If your elderly loved one is known for their homemade pasta sauce or incredible chocolate cake, don’t miss your chance to learn how to recreate them.
Signature dishes are a legacy that most older people are excited to pass down to the ones they care for. Plan a cooking lesson, or compile a collection of beloved recipes. A curated cookbook or recipe box can even represent your entire family or an extended network of friends.
4. Create a family tree.
Online resources make it easier than ever to become a genealogist, but it’s ok to start small. Older family members are often a wealth of information about distant or deceased relatives you may not have gotten a chance to know.
Mapping out a family tree is a great way to spark fulfilling conversations. Genealogy gives older adults a chance to reminisce while offering younger family members a valuable opportunity to learn more about where they come from.
5. Live in the moment.
When we look for opportunities to bond with the seniors in our lives, it’s important to look to the future as well as the past. Older adults are vital people with interests, goals, and hobbies, and there are still so many memories to be made.
Seek out ways to become part of the activities they enjoy today. This can be as simple as watching a favorite television show, or as ambitious as working together to learn a new skill.
If you have taken on a caregiving role in your senior loved one’s life, calling in reinforcements can help you find opportunities to pursue these wonderful memories. Getting assistance with things like meal preparation and everyday personal care tasks can create the space you need to simply have fun together. After all, isn’t that what life is about?