When thinking about the older adults who matter most in your life, memories of happiness they’ve brought you and wisdom they’ve shared with you likely arise. There are many ways to show love for the older adults in your life who have shined so bright, and who may be facing changes and challenges common in the golden years.
Tangible gifts are thoughtful and often appreciated by older adults, but most of the best gifts come from within, through the connections that we invest a lot of time into making, and the love and support that we give. Read on about ways to show love to the seniors in your life!
1. Be a Present Friend
There are many ways to be present in the lives of the seniors who matter most to us, even when they live far away or we are seldom able to physically visit them. Engaging with them through tech via the telephone, face time, email, game apps, or text messages can be very meaningful. Often a senior will be partial to at least one of those communication forms, if not several. For some seniors, writing and receiving physical letters and cards bring excitement and joy.
Interaction frequency matters, especially for a senior who you know feels isolated. Reaching out several times each week can be extremely comforting and can greatly enhance your relationship. It comes down to doing what you can do out of genuine care toward your special senior(s).
2. Help Seniors Engage in Social Groups
Go beyond being a “present friend” to show older adults you care by helping them have more meaningful interactions with others. Participating in social interactions, groups, and activities may greatly benefit them. According to the National Institute on Aging, research studies show that social relationships are associated with measures of health. Social isolation serves as a major risk for mortality, and physical and emotional health is very much affected by amounts of social interaction.
Some ways to help the older adults in your life get more social include researching groups in the community, encouraging involvement, and – with their consent – initiating introductions if they feel intimidated.
Among others, there are often activity groups present in communities for:
- bonding with animals
- book lovers
- chorus, music appreciation, or orchestra
- cooking or baking
- dance, swimming, or yoga
- drama or theater
- drawing, painting or sculpting
- fishing or boating
- life-story writing or poetry
- spirituality or choir groups
- tea time
3. Offer to Lend a Helping Hand
For seniors who live on their own and/or who may be bogged down by the stress of maintaining cleanliness in a home, cooking, or downsizing, it can be a great help to them when a friend or family member offers to help them out.
If they express resistance or embarrassment:
- respect their wishes
- remind them of ways they have helped you
- let them know that your offer stands
- let them know you want to help them in any way they may need
4. Offer a Listening Ear
One of the most important things we can give to a senior is our understanding. Seniors often experience strong emotions as a result of health, work, family, or home-related changes later in life. It’s important for us to hear their words, try to refrain from judgment, and let them know that they are being heard and understood. Asking a senior an open-ended question about how they feel will likely signal to them that you want to know about their thoughts and emotions, not just facts.
5. Let Them Know They Matter
- Social beings love to be told that they matter with compliments or kind words. Tell an older person that they are loved and appreciated.
- Be perceptive and notice the positive actions they take and the efforts they make. Both are meaningful and are worth acknowledging.
- Be present in their life as often as you are able, either physically or through communication devices.
- Show they matter by physically moving at their pace with them, patiently listening to them before starting to respond, and speaking at a pace and in a volume that they can easily follow.