What a way to celebrate 101 years of life!
With the holiday season in full swing, I sat down to put some thought into which gifts will boost the spirits and benefit our elderly loved ones most. Here are my top five gift ideas to make the season bright:
1. Audio Books / Podcast Subscription
Aging can take away our eyesight, but it can't take our enjoyment of a good story! Audio books and podcasts (many of which are free, such as Radiolab or This American Life) are a fantastic way for an elderly person with visual impairments to enjoy their favorite yarns. You can set them up with an audio library on their computer, smart phone or tablet. Check out Audible for some great selections.
2. Photo Blanket- the softer the better!
The modern age offers an incredible variety of photo gifts out there on the market. But one of my favorites, for both form and function, is the photo blanket. They're easy to order online (you can get one from WalMart) and can be a wonderful way to keep pictures of the grand-kids close. Plus, our elderly relatives tend to feel the cold more easily, so warm blankets are always appreciated.
3. Digital Picture Frame
Many of our elderly loved ones struggle with limited mobility. This might mean they spend a lot of time in one room of the house. Instead of offering a dozen of the traditional photo frames that gather dust, consider giving them a digital frame that can include tons of photos all in one place. Your loved one can enjoy a slideshow of smiling faces of family and friends from the comfort of their favorite chair.
4. Comfy Footwear
Your elderly loved one is more susceptible to chilly feet. Slippers and socks with non-slip treads not only keep them cozy, but they also help prevent hazardous falls. You may also want to consider indoor/outdoor "garden shoes" like crocks that have non-slip bottoms and warm fuzzy fabric to hug their feet.
5. Cleaning Services
If you've never hired a cleaning service before, boy you'll be amazed at the difference they can make. They not only keep your house clean, they also help keep your mind free from clutter and your spirits high. It can be extremely difficult for your elderly loved one to keep a clean home, especially when cleaning requires strenuous physical activity like scrubbing, bending and kneeling. Consider hiring a monthly or bi-monthly cleaning service to do the job. Most services charge by the square foot and allow you to schedule regular days. Think of how good your elderly loved one would feel with a consistently clean, comfortable home!
Of course, it needs to be said that the best gift is your company! Our nation's seniors suffer from loneliness. Paying them a visit as often as you can is the greatest (and most appreciated) gift we can offer.
5 Life Lessons from those Who've Lived a Lifetime: Advice from America's Elders
We’ve all heard the phrase: Youth is wasted on the young. But what if, at any stage of our life, we had access to the wisdom that comes with experience? This is precisely the idea that led Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University to compile a catalog of wisdom from our elders. He calls it “The Legacy Project; Lessons for Living from the Wisest Americans.”
Dr. Pillemer interviewed a thousand older Americans about the lessons they’ve learned through living a lifetime- and the responses they had to offer surprised him. Here are a few pieces of hard-won advice Dr. Pillemer has safeguarded for future generations:
On Love :
1. According to our elders (some of whom have been married for upward of 60 years!), in matters of love the small stuff is the big stuff. Perhaps it’s true that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff- when it comes to real small stuff at work or in the mishaps of social gatherings- but when the small stuff is the everyday minutia that makes up a lifetime of our relationships, it carries big importance. Being positive with your partner and staying engaged rather than being dismissive, these are the things that breathe life into a long-term commitment.
2. Another surprising finding? While it’s true that opposites attract, older couples advise us to pair up with someone similar to ourselves. According to Dr. Pillemer, “based on 40, 50, or 60 years of marriage the elders say say: Marry someone a lot like you. Opposites attract, but they don’t make for long marriages. Find someone of similar background, interests, and most of all values.”
On regret at the end of life :
3. What insight do our seniors offer about regret? Dr. Pillemer says “what they regret most in life is worrying too much.” According to those with years of experience to back them up, what we tend to worry about tends never to happen. The things that really challenge us are things we didn’t see coming to begin with.
4. Through his research Dr. Pillemer also discovered: “You are going to absolutely regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did.” So if someone offers you an opportunity and you don’t have a good reason to decline, then do it! The Legacy Project’s research shows that our elders encourage taking risks.
5. Another big regret? Dishonesty. I guess the old adage hits the mark: the truth will set you free.
Eager for more good advice? Check out Dr. Pillemer’s books: 30 Lessons for Living; Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans and 30 Lessons for Loving; Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage.
How can we stay curious and engaged with life? By learning new things! It’s been proven that new experiences boost our self-confidence and resilience.
Did you know that learning can help you live longer? Psychologist Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, says: “I think most social scientists would put their money on education as the most important factor in ensuring longer lives.” In fact, studies have shown that college educated individuals are expected to live longer than those who did not receive a college education.
Did you know that many community colleges offer discounted rates to seniors wishing to audit classes? Another fantastic and free learning resource is TED Talks. TED Talks are presentations offered by experts from around the globe that cover a multitude of subjects. Find out more about them here.
Formal education aside, learning can come through many different forms. No matter what your age is, learning new things can help keep your mind sharper.
Harvard Medical School recommends taking up a new skill or hobby. You may consider joining a social or special interest club in your area. They also recommend going somewhere new each day. If your mobility is limited, try simply making an effort to notice new things around you.
In Mahatma Ghandi's words: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Inter-Generational Playground in Spain Helps Seniors Get in Touch with Their Inner Child
A playground that caters to both seniors and children... and it's on the beach, no less! What a creative way for seniors to combat loneliness and promote healthy movement.
If you're like me, you probably know at least one family of grandparents raising their grandkids. And while raising children is undoubtedly one of the most meaningful and precious undertakings we can experience, it brings with it a whole host of challenges; challenges that can certainly become more complicated and intensified for aging guardians.
We all know that the modern family is changing its dynamic. Here are a few surprising facts about grandparents raising grandchildren in the United States:
1. According to a 2010 survey, about 1 in 14 U.S. children lived in a household headed by a grandparent.
2. Nearly 5.8 million U.S. children live in their grandparent's homes.
3. Over 2.5 million grandparents have taken on the responsibility of caring for these children.
4. In Virginia alone, 60,675 grandparents are householders responsible for their grandchildren. 16% of these grandparents live in poverty.
5. The percentage of children living in their grandparent's household has been steadily rising over the last 40 years, more than doubling from 1970 to 2010.
Many grandparents raising their grandchildren are not aware of the many programs and services available to them. For more statistics and helpful resources in Virginia, see AARP's state Grandfacts Sheet. And no matter what state you call home, see more about AARP's Grandfacts.
If you or someone you know is a grandparent raising a grandchild and you're interested in finding out what kind of government programs may be available to you, try the government Benefit Finder.
Long Distance Grandparenting
Today, millions of American families are separated by long distances that make daily, weekly or even monthly visits impossible. As a grandparent, you play an important role in your grandchild’s life; a role that can be challenged by distance.
If you’re one of the many grandparents out there who is only able to see their grandchildren a few times a year, you probably want to make the most out of the time you have with them. Here are a few ideas for ways to bond with your grandchildren and make lasting memories.
Arts and crafts
Do you enjoy working with your hands? Kids love crafts, and a visit to your local craft store will provide you with endless inspiration for creations to share with your grandchildren. Here’s an idea: paint a birdhouse! Build your own or use a kit.
The great thing about arts and crafts is that they result in a finished product that you and your grandchild can cherish for years to come.
How handy are you in the kitchen? Sure, younger kids should keep a safe distance from the stove, but that doesn’t mean they can’t participate. Decorating cookies with colorful icing is sure to elicit squeals of joy from any young child. Check out cooking with kids for fun ideas in the kitchen.
Did you know that play improves memory and problem solving skills? Playing has many benefits, and enjoyment is not the least of them. Simply playing with your grandchildren, whether it’s hide-and-seek, a puzzle or a checkers match, can be the best way to deepen your relationship.
Teaching is one of the most valuable gifts a grandparent can give their grandchild. Do you have a special hobby or skill to share? Passing down your own special interest is a great way to bond with your grandkids. Whatever it is you feel passionate about, sharing your hobbies with your grandchildren is like sharing a part of yourself.
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