6 Things to Do on Senior Citizens Day
27 years ago, the U.S. Congress and President Ronald Reagan encouraged the public recognition of our senior citizens, their wisdom, their leadership and their contributions by declaring August 21, 1988 to be the first National Senior Citizens Day.
Of course, the act of encouraging our loved ones’ happiness and social interaction should happen throughout the year, not just on Senior Citizens Day. There’s never a bad time to make our loved ones feel special, and there are a lot of different ways to reap the benefits of connecting with seniors, from simple day-to-day check-ins to intergenerational family activities.
The Importance of Staying Connected with Senior Loved Ones
According to the Administration on Aging, 28% of adults over 65 live alone; for women over age 75, the percentage jumps to 45%. While maintaining independence can provide a big boost to self-esteem and empowerment, it also comes with risks for our older loved ones. When seniors live alone, without much family or social contact, it can take longer to detect the warning signs of physical or cognitive impairment. This can put their health and safety at risk, and increase the likelihood of depression and other mental health issues.
Indeed, loneliness and social isolation are significant predictors not only of physical health problems but also depression and even mortality in the elderly. Conversely, even a quick friendly conversation with a stranger can increase our happiness for the day, says a recent study by the University of British Columbia.
Imagine the value of spending true quality time with our loved ones! It’s not only good for seniors, it’s good for families — another study, this one at Boston College, found that grandparents and grandchildren with strong relationships experienced fewer symptoms of depression in both generations. Needless to say, grandchildren also benefit from having another source of advice, connection, and family history.
6 Things to Do on Senior Citizens Day to Engage Your Family
Some of our favorite activities for Senior Citizens Day have tangible benefits in terms of social connection and individual well-being, as well as encouraging intergenerational contact. Here’s a list of easy ways to get started:
- Encourage eye contact and physical touch. The simple presence of a friend or a hug from a family member can help raise cortisol levels and reduce stress. Even simple eye contact can help encourage feelings of connection.
- Set aside books, movies or games to enjoy with your senior loved ones. Establishing a fun routine that’s specially shared between grandkids and grandparents creates a positive expectation of quality time, as well as an opportunity for families to share some of their favorite activities with one another.
- Start a family history project. Interviewing senior loved ones about their memories and experiences gives them an opportunity to share wisdom and advice, and provides a unique chance to start collecting those old family stories and photos. Plus it’s a great conversation starter.
- Skype with tech-savvy seniors. A 2014 report by Pew Research found that 6 in 10 seniors go online. That’s great news for families separated by geographic distance. Not only can we simply pick up the phone to talk to loved ones, we can also chat face to face with software like Skype or FaceTime.
- Make small talk. As noted above, researchers have found that even a brief interaction — a smile, a quick conversation — can cheer people up for the day. So your Skype chat or phone call doesn’t have to be lengthy to be meaningful.
- Practice random acts of kindness. Visit and talk with your loved ones even when they’re not expecting it. Drop in to their home or assisted living community for a chat. Bring a pack of cards. Take them out for a surprise lunch at a favorite restaurant.
Truly, it is the little things that end up being the most valuable — short visits and even quick calls to say hello.
Start today in honor of National Senior Citizens Day, but keep carrying out these tips throughout the year and your families will be stronger and happier.
How do you stay in touch and foster family connections? Do you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share? Add your tips in the comments below.
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