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 take your gram or gramps out for a meal to celebrate the occasion, here are six ways you can stay active in your elderly loved one’s lives year-round.
- Go grocery shopping with 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 them company—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.
- Take them to their doctor’s appointment. It’s important to be your own advocate when it comes to your health care, but as we age it can become harder and harder to speak up or keep track of records. Taking your grandparent to their doctor’s appointment—and being in the room with them if they’re ok with it—is a great way to stay aware of health issues and advocate for their health on their behalf. Plus, it shows you care about and support them.
- 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 clinic so they can stay healthy and protected.
- Take a walk down memory lane. Literally. If you’re nearby your loved one’s hometown, take a 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. 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 living alone. 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.
- Be there. This one is simple, but it’s the most important. Just be there for your loved one. Eat dinner together, play cards, ask them 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 outing or dinner for Grandparents’ Day, consider these ideas to make your grandparents feel valued—and are healthy and happy—all year.