First celebrated in 1956, Grandparents’ Day falls on the second Sunday of September every year. It was the idea of West Virginia resident Marian McQuade, who, after seeing how many nursing home residents were neglected by their families, wanted to designate a day to honor and celebrate grandparents. And while we think you should definitely make time for your gram or gramps on this special occasion, here are six ways you can stay active in your elderly loved ones’ lives year-round.
- Go grocery shopping for them. Researchers at the University of California studied 1,600 elderly participants and found that those who reported loneliness were more likely to develop difficulties with activities in daily living. Help your loved one with day-to-day activities like grocery shopping, not only to keep a regular visit with them—but also to make sure it’s being taken care of. Check their kitchen before you go to see if anything is expired and needs replacing, or if they’re running low on any medications. Especially during COVID-19, your grandparent may be nervous about visiting a grocery store and would greatly appreciate your help.
- Show them how to set up a virtual care appointment. For many people, a virtual doctor visit feels like the safest option for non-emergencies right now. Grandparents may be interested in this option, but unsure of how to set up an appointment online. Take some time to show your grandparent how to schedule a virtual appointment with one of their devices and walk them through how it works and why it may be beneficial. If they’re comfortable with it, you could even visit them on the day of the appointment and stick around to help out in case any technical difficulties arise. This will show them you’re invested in their health care and want to keep them safe.
- Help them get their vaccines. While we’re on the topic of helping your grandparents with health care, make sure they’re up to date on their flu vaccine. The flu is particularly dangerous for the elderly because of the complications that can occur. If their doctor hasn’t administered a flu vaccine for the upcoming flu season, make an appointment or take them to a nearby clinic so they can stay healthy and protected.
- Take a walk down memory lane. Literally. If you’re near your loved one’s hometown, take a safe, socially distanced walk through the area where they grew up. Ask about their favorite memories, what they did with their friends as a teenager, where their favorite spot to eat was—in other words, give them an opportunity to reminisce. If you can’t physically walk around their hometown, look it up on Google Street View and have them recount memories as you take a virtual tour.
- Check for hazards in their home. If you and your loved one are comfortable visiting and take proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, make regular visits to your loved one’s home to keep them company—and while you’re there, make sure their home is safe for them. Loose wires, slippery floors, broken railings—these can all pose hazards for an elderly loved one. Take stock of any potential issues and arrange to have them taken out. If you need more tips on making a home safe for an elderly loved one, take a look at our ideas on updating your home. If you don’t feel comfortable with an in-person visit, try a video chatting regularly to stay up-to-date.
- Be there. This one is simple, but it’s the most important. Just be there for your loved one. Call regularly, visit if you are able, ask about their day—in other words, just be a companion. Loneliness in elderly populations is an increasing issue, but you can help by just being there for your loved ones.
So while you’re planning a nice, safe celebration for Grandparents’ Day or on any day you’re both available, consider these ideas to make your grandparents feel valued—and are healthy and happy—all year.