Saturday night three creative adult children honored their 90-year-old mother with a warm, upbeat, lovely dinner party. There were 78 guests ages 4-94, the latter being Laura’s husband of 69 years. What made it such fun? And also interesting?
- It was well planned, with just the right mix of short speeches, video, recorded messages, nonprofessional music, thoughtful seating of guests and family members.
- The venue was a hotel. Drinks and hors d’oeuvre in one private room; another room set up with table for dining (8 persons per table), a screen for the video of family members going back to Laura’s grandmother.
- 2 original very personalized games:
The first, confessed by one grandchild, was a scavenger hunt the grandchildren played (without the grandparents knowing about it) the day before in Laura’s refrigerator and pantry. Goal: find the packages, jars, or containers with the oldest expiration date. They held up each item, announced its contents (e.g. can of sweet peas expired 1996; package of Jello expired 2000) bringing gales of laughter. Don’t we all know older people who have expired food on their shelves?
The second game–consisted of repeating sayings they’d heard over and over from their grandmother. If Laura could remember which kid she said it to and under what circumstance, she’d get a whatever (kiss?). Laura protested that she hadn’t been prepped for this game, whereupon the kids ignored her protests and continued. A fun way to hear information about the honoree and Laura’s not being prepared made it spontaneous, which was half the fun.
- Proclamations sent by various officials (Laura was active in local politics). Seems her son got busy, many months before, writing state and local officials. Laura thinks there must be people in government offices who specialize in sending congratulatory letters.
- The video was short, with music and voice over and old family photos. Videos are no doubt a part of many celebrations for older/old people. But something made this video even more special. After watching a lifetime of carefully selected photos and getting a feeling for the family there was an interesting addition. Laura’s brother told the story. In going back and tracing the family roots, a lost part of the family was found, contacted, and six members of that family were in attendance.
When birthday parties for the elderly involve research, one never knows what will be unearthed!
On a personal note–Interestingly that same day–because the party was in a town that had a railroad station but no taxis, I got off the train and phoned (as instructed) the hotel to ask for their car service. The latter was very slow to arrive. Nearby was a van with a father and two youngsters and I decided I’d perhaps walk to the hotel if it wasn’t too far so I tapped on the window and asked the distance-to-the-hotel question. (For those interested, New Yorkers are accustomed to walking everywhere so I’d planned to change into good shoes at the hotel.)
We had a short conversation and to our surprise, we learned my former next-door neighbor was his cousin….a cousin he hadn’t seen in 30 years, but was reunited with at the family wedding down south last summer. (Yes, he took me to the hotel.)
Bottom line: Whether birthday parties for the elderly, or weddings for those younger, milestone events clearly provide occasions that add enjoyment and surprises. And doesn’t that contribute to helping parents–and all the elderly we care about–age well.
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research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.