How Your Family Can Help Older People In Your Life
By the year 2015, one-third of Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 lived with their parents. This often invokes an image of an apathetic, single individual playing a video game in the basement. However, often this couldn’t be further from the truth is. At this point, many millennials have consciously made the responsible move to live with their parents in a multigenerational household. It’s a choice that reflects both a cultural and financial shift from traditional single-family homes.
If you’re amongst those who find themselves proactively and positively living with a parent — especially a senior — it’s important that you take the time to teach your children to invest themselves in your communal living situation and help older people as well. Even if you don’t live under the same roof, there’s a good chance that your life is intimately involved with a parent or another elderly relative.
If that’s the case, here are a few suggestions for ways that you can encourage your children to help the older people living in your home.
Spend Time Outside Together
One of the most effective ways to bring different generations together is to simply go outside. This requires unplugging your children from their devices and getting everyone up and moving around — activities that are beneficial to everyone involved. Once outside you can:
- Garden together.
- Do other yard work together.
- Go on to the beach.
- Find a good nature trail or path to walk.
Spending time in Mother Nature naturally and easily brings everyone together in a shared bonding experience.
Provide Opportunities to Pass Knowledge
Sometimes the best way your children can help the older people in their lives is by simply giving them attention and respect. This can be done by looking for various ways to allow elders to pass their knowledge down to younger generations, such as:
- Cooking and baking together.
- Asking a senior to share stories from their past.
- Having your children interview an elder and record their responses.
- Spending time looking at old family photos.
- Having an older person teach your children a skill, such as repairing the lawnmower or building a sustainably-minded DIY project.
- Requesting an elder to play music — or even provide music lessons — for your children.
Whatever the particular activity, providing opportunities to pass knowledge can be immensely satisfying for children and seniors alike.
Find Intergenerational Activities
Even if you don’t have a specific learning-based project to focus on, there are many multigenerational activities that children can engage in with their elders, such as:
- Doing arts and crafts together.
- Starting a book club — and possibly having the older person read aloud.
- Doing puzzles together.
- Playing games together.
In our busy modern lives, sometimes time spent together is all that’s needed to develop a strong relationship that is beneficial to elders and youth alike.
Involve Older Children in Important Responsibilities
Finally, remember that caring for an older parent can be a heavy burden — and it’s one that children can often help with. Rather than simply giving in to the frustration of caring for kids and ageing parents at the same time, look for ways to turn the situation into a positive learning and relationship-building experience.
For example, if you need to make changes in order to accommodate having an elder live in your home, have your children help stage your spaces. If the older person lives separately from you, bring your child along with you as you care for them in their own home, too.
Even if you need to manage your parent’s medical concerns, you can still make it a learning opportunity. Show your children what is involved so that they can learn about medication organisation tips, like using a pill organiser and a medication chart or refilling a prescription (just don’t entrust the actual process of handling the medication to a child alone!).
You can even invite them in to see the process as you go about sorting through complex healthcare processes, like figuring out your parents’ health insurance. Letting your child witness as you grapple with questions like what procedures are covered by a particular policy, differences between offerings like Medicate Advantage and Medigap, and other mind-numbing minutiae can provide important life lessons that will serve them far into the future.
In addition, if you struggle with things like catastrophising or having difficult conversations as a caretaker, you can even carefully invite your older children in to see the more emotional side of caring for an elder.
Obviously don’t overwhelm them with personal or intense information — such as discussing a bad medical diagnosis. However, you can try to expose them to small doses of the caretaking process, like helping with bills or accommodating another’s needs in your own busy schedule, in order to prepare them for their own future when they are called on to help care for others — or even yourself.
Connecting Across Generations
It doesn’t matter if your child is learning about your parent’s medications, doing a puzzle with an elderly neighbour, learning how to bake with a great aunt, or anything else, there are many ways that children can get involved in helping older people.
Many of the above activities are directly, tangibly helpful, such as arranging a home for multigenerational living. Others are more emotionally fulfilling in nature, such as spending time outdoors together,learning skills from an elder or helping them in writing a memoir. Regardless, it’s important to encourage younger generations to be interested, invested, and involved with seniors. This enables them to both support the older people in their life and, in turn, learn what they can from their deep, life-long experiences.