Visiting your parents and family this holiday season? Instead of staring at the TV, or – even worse – debating politics, try some of these suggestions. Not only are they enjoyable, they provide opportunities to gain insight into how your aging relative is doing.
Pull out the photo albums. This is an opportunity to hear stories about long-gone relatives, learn interesting facts about your family history and discover who your parents were before they were … well, your parents. Who knew that your dad used to drag race old cars? Or that your grandma was renowned for her jams and jellies? Better yet, don’t just listen – take snaps of the pictures and record the stories.
Go for a walk. Walking after a meal is proven to be healthy, not just for the body but for the mind. So instead to taking a nap or watching a movie after your holiday meal, leave the dishes in the sink and go for a walk. Let your parent set the pace; it’s doesn’t have to be a sprint. You can also take advantage of this time to ask them how they’ve been. Sometimes you can learn more about their health and well-being by simply walking and listening.
Do a jigsaw puzzle. If the weather is too bad to go outside, set up a jigsaw puzzle inside. Try to pick a well-lit area that is comfortable and out of the way. Puzzles are great for the brain, and they can also be a group activity. While you’re puzzling away, you can chat and ask questions.
Encourage intergenerational play. If there are younger kids in your family, encourage them to interact with your older family members through an activity. These can be simple: spread out crayons and colored pens on a table with adults’ and kids’ coloring or activity books. Try a simple game of hangman or memory. If kids are older, card games can be fun. These interactions benefit young and old alike.
Visit nearby attractions. If you and your family are tired of staying in, you can always hop in the car to visit a nearby attraction. Museums, public libraries, parks and even shopping malls can be good destinations. Be sure to do your research ahead of time – are they open? Are they handicap accessible? Can you rent or use a wheelchair if needed?
Let them teach you something. Whether it’s how to bake a perfect cake, or how to fold a napkin into a swan, there are probably many skills your relatives have that they can teach to you. If it’s simple, they can demonstrate, or if it’s a more complicated task, they can simply talk you through the steps.
Do a group project. If you have a group of family and friends gathered, you can get everyone’s creative juices flowing with a group art or craft project. This could include making simple wreaths, personalizing stockings, decorating sugar cookies (pretty and edible!). This will create great memories.