Making Aging Parents Happy: How A Good Friend Helps–and Why

Ready for New Years Eve

Ready for New Years Eve

It’s January 2. The day after New Years.  A good friend calls with thanks for our New Year’s Eve Dinner Party. Being together was great. We talk about our plans for the day and rest of the week. My friend is playing bridge today and Friday.

“Are you playing with your friend’s elderly mother today?” I ask.  “Not today, but I’ll be playing with them Friday. You know, her mother’s 90, doesn’t hear well–really doesn’t hear well and a lot of our group doesn’t want to play with her because of that– but she’s a good bridge player.

I was appreciative of anything that made my mother happy (she died at 94) and if I can do this for Marcia, I’m happy to. Playing bridge gives Marcia’s mother something to look forward to and gets her out of her house. I play in the foursome with her at least every other week.”

(Over a year ago Marcia lined up a few friends so that her mother had at least one bridge game a week to look forward to. Lunch is always a part of the afternoon and they trade off homes to play in. Marcia arranges the lunch when the foursome plays at her mother’s apartment.)

I was appreciative of anything that made my mother happy.”  These words resonate. When we are trying to help our parents age well, especially as they get older and older, most likely fewer opportunities exist to make them happy. Indeed we may need to be creative and resourceful, which could involve recruiting a few friends. Obviously helping aging and old parents stay involved is a key to making them happy. Feeling accepted by younger people makes them happy. Getting out of the house for something fun and/or entertaining makes them happy.

And it makes my friend happy. She’s doing something that enhances an old person’s life; it’s bridge and she enjoys that too. A win-win for everyone.

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Stimulation and Connections Enhance Seniors’ Lives–6 Suggestions

1.  A Little Help From My Friends….

A quick call to my friend, Linda. “Any chance you’re free Friday or is that your bridge day?”

“You’re sort of right–sometimes it’s my bridge day and it will be this Friday.  Jackie’s mother is almost 90 and loves to play bridge. So I play bridge with Jackie and her mother –not every Friday–but when I’m asked and that’s this Friday.”

…..Without Overloading Friends

How thoughtful of Jackie…towards her mother as well as towards her friends. Linda doesn’t give up time every Friday. No doubt Jackie, the daughter, does but she involves different friends in such a way that she doesn’t over-impose on their Fridays.

Meanwhile, Jackie’s giving her elderly mother something priceless, something special to look forward to–time with her daughter and several other women on Fridays. This not only provides togetherness and socialization, but all the good that accompanies it– fresh ideas, connections and a change of scenery. (They play bridge at a different home/apartment each Friday, including Jackie’s mother’s.) And let’s not forget stimulation for the brain….

2.  Games

Yet games needn’t be confined to bridge to stimulate the brain. There are a number of games aging parents may have played in the past (mahjong, dominoes, Canasta, Scrabble, Chess, Poker anyone? or Monopoly? What about jigsaw puzzles?). Getting re-involved in these can be a way to pull a bored couch potato off the couch to become engaged again.

 3.  Involving Family and Friends

Children, grandchildren as well as other family members and friends can be scheduled to play in these games–using Jackie’s model–without over-imposing. If this jumpstarts an older person off the couch and into a chair for a game, shouldn’t this help parents age well?

4.  Friend Skype

My friend, Monique, on the other hand, uses her friend, Skype, to connect with her far-away-living mother. Monique’s 87-year-old mother has lived in a small medieval village in the South of France for decades. The way Monique reports it, her mother can expect a long phone call from her, using Skype, on 3 specific days a week, after dinner in France (there’s an 8-hour time difference), plus a few short surprise calls at night.  Monique reflects:

“You know being home alone in the evenings is hard for people living alone–no one to share with, no conversations. Someone that age, who’s alone–there’s nothing much at night for her. She doesn’t especially like TV, does read, but still….This way after dinner and doing the dishes, she tucks herself in bed and waits for the phone to ring.”

5.  Skype and Multi-tasking

“Thank God for Skype!”  Monique continues. “It costs around $42 a year and we can talk 24/7 if we want. We spoke for 4 solid hours yesterday. I had the headset on so I was able to move around the house and get all the housework done, feed the fish, and water the garden.  Her part of France–it’s 8 hours ahead–she’s tucked in bed and I’m accomplishing things around the house.”

Monique came to the US decades ago to work for a US corporation. Today she’s a wife, devoted daughter of a far-away-living mother, and an event-organizer. In the “old days” her mother visited her often in the US but aging has made it less easy.

Amaryllis

“I sent her an amaryllis bulb for Christmas,” explains Monique. “It’s very little work, easy to care for. And every day she gets up and watches it grow and I hear about it. It now has a bud, but she doesn’t know what color it will be yet. As people get older there’s not much left for them…it doesn’t take much to give them pleasure.”

Sr. Advisor, R, at 98, would certainly agree. She has ordered Amaryllis bulbs for at least a decade. She lines them up in pots on her kitchen table, waters and turns them, and delights in watching them grow. When they’re near their peak of perfection, she gives them as gifts to people who have befriended her during the year.

Nature is renewing, Watching Amaryllis (as well as certain other plants) grow–if they’re easy to care for–can become an enjoyable pastime. Monique seems to be right: it doesn’t take much.  Indeed, it may not take as much as we think to add stimulation and connections to seniors’ lives–to help parents and grandparents age well.

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.