February 4th, 2011 at 3:06 am
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Creating meaningful visits by connecting the generations

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Watching the expressions of older adults when referring to the younger people in their lives is a delight. Think back to some of the special memories you have of your visits with grandparents and other older adults through the years. Many active older adults may not have any difficulty creating those opportunities. How can you help make it happen when it is more of a challenge?

What is important to remember is an older adult with hearing, vision and/or memory challenges will need some assistance to make some of these opportunities happen. One daughter had her teenage children send family photos to her computer and she created a special day with her mother once a month. The daughter cooked her mom’s favorite dinner and followed the meal with a slide show of the family pictures from the last few weeks. After dinner they placed calls to other family members since her mom was having trouble dialing the phone. It became one of the highlights of her month especially when one of the grandchildren came along. This was a tradition they continued when the daughter’s mother moved to an assisted living.

One of things I enjoyed doing many years ago was to record a book on tape and send it to the daughter of a close friend. Technology has now advanced way beyond tape recording a story but it brought me great pleasure then and the book was something that was passed along to the next child. One friend liked this idea so much that she had her son record books he was reading and send them to the grandparents. Since they were more comfortable using a tape recorder, that was the format they preferred. The boy was just learning to read and his grandparents were excited to keep up with his progress.

Whenever you create some of these opportunities, it is important to remember not to overwhelm older adults with any technology that may be more complicated than they can handle. The last thing you want to do is create a situation where they become confused or frustrated. Meeting them at the level that appeals the most to them is what is likely to be the better option. The goal is to create a meaningful experience, not to teach them how to use the new technology. And it is always possible that with repeated use with your help, the older adult may become more comfortable and perhaps interested in learning more which can lead to even more options.

What is so special is that you never know what memories make the biggest impression through the years. Life was less hectic decades ago and it may take a little more effort now to keep the connection going with the younger members of the family. That is likely to be something well worth doing many times over.

For additional suggestions refer to Creating Time Well Spent.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Budda

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