My parents and in-laws are in their 70′s. Each year my kids ask what they think their grandparents would like for Christmas and my answer is always the same… “Whatever they like, they buy. Whatever they need, they buy. I DON’T KNOW!” But, the fact is, I do know what they’d like and need more than anything: feeling loved and their family wanting to spend time with them. That seems simple enough, but in reality, it’s not done so well these days.
Grandparents crave love. They often feel useless, as if their time here on earth is over already and they are no longer needed. They long for that assurance of being loved, wanted, useful. They need to know they still have something to offer.
Just how do you show a grandparent (or someone of that age) that they’re needed?
We had a preschool nearby that has a Thanksgiving feast each year that celebrated the children’s grandparents. The preschoolers were to invite their grandparents to school for that day in order that they could be honored and enjoy a special meal with their grandchild. But unfortunately, many of the preschoolers didn't have grandparents in town that were able to attend and the parents of these little ones were asked to find a substitute/adopted grandparent. I watched the foster grandparents fill in and the joy they had that day as grandma or grandpa was immeasurable.
I’ve worked in an adult day care center at a local hospital. Seniors are checked in early and spend the entire day there. What do they enjoy most? Spending time with with others – someone showing them that they matter – that they still have something to offer in life.
These grandparents love to play games. Why not give your grandparents a deck of cards with a note attached for a regular/weekly standing engagement for an hour of fun?
One thing I noticed at the center was that seniors love to dance. It’s a relaxing and gentle exercise that accomplishes several things: movement, laughter, touch. They love to dance with someone. They love to sit and talk about their past and their kids and grandkids. They love to make things. And they love to sing. But they don’t like to do it alone. They like to have others with them.
How do you give the gift of making them feel needed? You need to make a plan. Schedule some TIME to spend with them. Go for a walk with them. Play a game of cards. Read to them. Many senior aged people have a difficult time reading due to poor eyesight and love to be read to.
My father in-law plays the piano for a retirement home where the seniors come and sing hymns on Sunday evenings. They love to sing old hymns. Why not take a grandparent to a local hymn sing? Or how about calling grandma and seeing if she can “play” – not babysit. Get out the games and the coloring books and set her up near Junior so they can color together. She will love the one on one time with her grandchild without feeling like she is there to watch him.
I have a friend who regularly goes for lunch with her granddaughters. She always has so much to talk about after the time she has spent with them. She looks forward to those times with much excitement and it means the world to her that her granddaughters want to be with her so often.
An older gentleman I know is a genius at math. He tutors local high school students after school each day. He loves feeling that he still has a purpose in life and the kids adore him. Next time Junior’s struggling with his math problems, don’t get frustrated – call grandpa. He’d be honored.
Grandma’s love to be dolled up. Treat yours to a manicure or a pedigree. She would love to feel and be pampered. My daughter and I did this a couple of years ago for my mother in-law for her birthday and she felt like a queen.
Another great activity to make grandma or grandparents feels needed is to interview them. They love to feel like they have something worthwhile to say and they have a multitude of wisdom. Type up the information into a little book and find some pictures to go with the history and present it as a gift back to her/him.
Do your grandparents have a dog? Maybe you can be the weekly pooper scooper for a while or take the dog for a walk once or twice a week. And in the winter, a commitment to shoveling the snow in the driveway would be a much welcomed gift.
Spend the day at grandma’s or grandpa’s house and offer to help out with those menial tasks that never get done: a plumbing job, hanging some pictures, dusting under heavy items, rearranging furniture, cleaning the freezer/refrigerator, shampooing the carpet, raking leaves.
Giving a gift for once a month housecleaning or showing up to do it yourself would bring a smile to any woman and a car wash would bring a smile to any senior man who loves his car.
There are a myriad of possibilities to give a grandparent that they need or really want. But it all comes down to wrapping it in love and spending time with them while they unwrap it.