As society moves ahead at a dizzying speed, it’s important to remember that there is a generation of seniors who might not move at the same pace.
However, without these elderly ladies and gentlemen we wouldn’t be here today. Therefore, above all, our elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors need to be cherished and truly valued for the many things they can still teach us today.
In caring for our grandparents or other senior members of our community, it is important to bear in mind certain factors and sentiments they may have to cope with, and the ways you can help them do so:
They may feel physical frustration
At the tender age of 78 my mother has finally stopped speed-walking up the hills where she lives. She has just naturally slowed down. I can see that she is frustrated by this, although she recognizes that she’s very grateful to still be so physically fit. Unfortunately, her hearing has also deteriorated. I can see how flustered she feels when many people are chatting around her.
How can we help? Well, it’s hard for any of us to face physical differences, but simple things like making direct conversation with her is certainly helpful. I also try to make sure I slow my own pace when walking alongside her. Plus, I comment on all the things she’s still able to do!
However, we do have to prepare ourselves for a time when my mother won’t be able to get out and about so easily. Part of that is reassuring her that she won’t be alone. It’s important for her to know that if the house and garden gets too much, we can find solutions — she’s stubbornly independent and hates to ask for help.
When it comes to asking for help, many seniors feel the same way. One way to respond to that reluctance is to provide help before seniors realize they need it. Take care of some basic chores you can do while visiting, like taking out the trash or making small repairs.
You can also get your kids involved, explaining to your elderly family member or friend that they are doing you a favor. Thanks to them your kids are learning valuable skills in caring for others!
They can be surrounded by loss
While we all live our lives not knowing when we’ll be called home, in our younger years we do feel a little more invincible. We put things off into the future as we take tomorrow for granted. However, as the years add up, there is a greater appreciation of how precious life is.
This past summer was particularly brutal for my parents. They lost three very close friends, and two more friends were diagnosed with dementia. It’s the first time I really saw my parents as being truly vulnerable.
My mother clings to my father a little more tightly now as I know she is so scared of the day one of them passes away. After 57 years of married life, that’s understandable.
I can see that it’s not a question of being scared to die, but a question of how one will live without the other. They see their circle of friends shrinking and that prospect becomes even more real.
Death is inevitable, of course, but to the best way to help elderly family members and friends is to be present. Sometimes that’s as simple as making a phone call to check up on them. It’s also important to plan for time together, allowing them to have things to look forward to as they face a more uncertain future.
They have a need for yesterday
Something my siblings and I have also recognized is my parents’ desire to look back on life. They reminisce far more than they used to and need to talk about people we’ve never met.
It’s important to let them share these moments with us. We can learn more about them, and sometimes the mischievous things they used to get up to, which is always fun!
It can be lovely to take literal trips down memory lane with our elderly loved ones. If the weather is nice, hop in the car and travel together to places that they hold dear in their hearts. These moments can be precious for young and old alike.
They need to feel valued
One of the most crucial things our seniors need is to feel that they are still valued. That especially means listening to their advice, particularly as they have a wealth of it to share. We can also invite them to be active in our lives. Just make sure you show patience if they have troubles managing new-fangled baby equipment or the latest tech.
(And speaking of technology, it’s very important to take the time to help them navigate new ways of doing things — such as contactless payment systems — especially if something will become part of their daily lives.)
Another way of making anyone feel valued is to simply spend time with them. So, seek out your elderly loved ones, enjoy their company, and remember that just because they may have physically aged, inside they often feel decades younger and still want to be fully engaged in life.
If any of our elder readers would like to add their own pearls of wisdom, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.