Older people can sometimes seem hard to approach, demanding or too difficult to deal with – but it really isn’t hard to give them moments of joy in their day. If you have any kind of interaction with seniors, here are a few things you can do to make their day.
Have a chat
Take the time to have a good old chinwag with elderly people that you come across in your day-to-day life. Sadly, older people often struggle with loneliness, a feeling of invisibility and ageist attitudes, and it can really make their day when someone makes the time to check in with them, rather than ignoring them.
Even if you don’t have time for an extended conversation with someone, give them a smile. You might just make the day of that old lady in the grocery store, or the old gentleman you saw out walking. A smile and a “hello, how are you?” can really help them to feel connected to others and is well worth doing.
Take the time to listen
Older people usually love to tell stories about their past – and they often have interesting tales to share. Listen to their stories, even if they repeat them ten times. Ask questions. Consider writing down or recording their stories, so that you can preserve them for future generations, as they won’t be around to tell them forever and it’s a shame to lose all that family history. It might be a great project to turn their stories into a homemade book with photos or drawings, or something similar.
And listen to the music from their era that they love with them. Older people will usually enjoy sharing the music they love with you, and will delight in telling you the stories and memories they associate with particular songs.
Offer help and support
As we age, certain tasks get harder and more difficult to accomplish easily. If your elderly friend or family member has been struggling with daily tasks that they no longer find easy, offer some help with it. And if you don’t know what specifically they may be struggling with, just ask them if you can help them with anything. They’ll be grateful for the help; and assisting others also has the side effect of making you feel good too!
Help them feel useful
On the other hand, while older people may often need help with tasks, no one wants to feel that they are useless. Older people still like to feel that they can add some value, and that people still need something they can give, even if it’s only a piece of advice. Brainstorm a few ways your older relative or friend might be able to help you, and ask them for help – but make sure it’s a task they can comfortably accomplish. Most people will be more than happy to help, and will be delighted to be considered useful.
Take them to visit old friends, family or places of interest
It can be difficult for older people to get around sometimes, making it harder to stay in contact with friends and family. Offer to take them to visit someone they’d love to see, or even take them to a place they’d love to visit.
Teach them something new
There’s plenty of things younger people take for granted that older people struggle with – like technology. They didn’t grow up surrounded by the technology that younger people did, and it can seem completely foreign and confusing sometimes. Take the time to teach them something they will use – such as how to join a zoom call, how to program their TV, how to play games on their iPad, or how to use social media. Be prepared to be very patient though – and check in with them frequently as to how it’s going.
Let them teach you something new
Conversely, your older friend or relative is likely to have plenty of skills and talents that you don’t. It might be knitting, crocheting, hand-sewing, filleting fish, making amazing chocolate chip cookies, tapestry, glass painting or even how to do the cryptic crossword – all of which are great skills to develop. Let them teach you how to do something you know nothing about – it’s likely to be a great bonding activity, and you’ll probably learn something new and useful as well.
Go through old photos
Photo albums can be a great way to recapture memories of the past, and to bring a smile to the face of seniors. Go through a photo album with your older family member or friend, and let them tell you about the photos contained within. You’ll no doubt pick up some interesting family stories – and brighten someone’s day at the same time as you give them the chance to recall treasured memories.
You can really make an older person’s day by thinking of a personal and meaningful way to surprise them. Send an unexpected bunch of flowers – just because – or send a handwritten letter. Drop off a book you found that you think they might like to read, or send a box of their favourite treats or food – anything to let them know you are thinking about them. They’ll appreciate your kind thought so much – and it’s lovely to think that you haven’t been forgotten, no matter how old you are.
Make them feel treasured, not a burden
Treat seniors as valuable people, rather than a burden. Older people can be treasure troves of wisdom and experience, as well as stories and family history, and it can be a truly enriching experience to spend time with them.
Try these strategies to help you celebrate and appreciate the older people in your life – and you’re sure to make someone’s day a whole lot brighter!