Many of us have put a lot of time and effort into creating meaningful experiences for those older adults in our lives. Not only was it important to be with them but creating memories and special moments mattered. Taking into consideration limitations of distance, time, hearing, vision or possible memory loss, these efforts can tap into not only our patience but our creativity.
Families often live in other states and everyone is busy. Spare time, for some of us, seems like a thing of the past. And yet, there are those with full schedules who seem to make a choice to spend meaningful time with an aging parent or friend. Whether it is a quick call to check in or a short note, little things can mean a lot.
When I am working with clients and looking for ways to bring meaningful activities and opportunities to their situations, my conversation often focuses on learning more about their lives especially interests and previous activities. If the older adult cannot easily share that information with me, I will look to family and friends for clues as to what mattered.
Knowing some of a person’s previous interests is a good place to start. Some older adults lived at a time where work and supporting a family was the main activity so looking for any leisure time activities may take some probing. A person’s family background, where they grew up and the work they did might provide some details. Building on reminiscing about those times is often more important to an older adult than what is happening in the world today.
It is also important to understand what does not appeal to a person. If a person was somewhat of a loner, that person may prefer quieter activities with one or two people. Having too much activity, a lot of younger children around at the same time or a day where you are taking them many places may be upsetting.
Since friends and family member have a different connection with each of the older adults, there is an opportunity for each person to create a meaningful activity special to their relationship. My mom and I shared an interest in words so Scrabble was our ritual every time I came to visit. My other family members did what worked best based on their relationship with mom. The nice part about that is when there is co-operation and communication an older adult can have a greater variety of activities.
Once you have this information about an older adult, you will have to take into consideration how to modify for any hearing, vision or memory challenges. Start with some little things that provide a connection and build on what works. Remember each day is different. Enjoy the moments. For additional information, refer to Creating Time Well Spent: Enhancing Your Visits with Older Adults
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford