While we all know that in the end it is the thought that counts, no one likes to show up completely empty handed on Valentine’s Day. Here are a few ideas that may help to remind someone how special they are to you.
Image from Vintage Holiday Crafts.
Despite a lengthy association with hearing aids, my 92-year old mother struggles to hear conversations. For a long time, she hid the extent of her loss with nods, smiles and uh-huhs. She was also skilled at asking one-sided questions and changing subjects at her convenience.
Eventually, our family realized that she was asking the same questions over because she never heard the original answers. Changing the subject and perfecting a generic look were her ways of avoid answering questions she never heard in the first place.
While we can’t imagine the level of despair she experiences daily, it is safe to say that the frustration due to her lack of hearing is palpable on both sides of the conversation.
We have enunciated, talked slowly, loudly, and resorted to writing on every available piece of paper in a room. Notebooks and pads work well for information that needs to be kept, but for ordinary conversation they seem wasteful and annoying.
That is why our family was happy to find a tool that has really made a difference in our lives, the Boogie Board. It is an inexpensive, erasable writing board. Think advanced 2017 etch-a-sketchy kind of thing. There is zero learning curve and the writing is clear and easy to read. Even my mother’s very tiny and precise cursive is easy to read with the fine-point stylus that is included with the board.
It is very portable and has an optional cover. She uses it in social situations and takes it to all her health appointments. When not in use, she keeps it safe in its neoprene cover (sometimes sold separately). She now has just one but we are currently contemplating how many will be optimum for group gatherings.
It has made life so much easier for all of us. Most importantly, my mother is reconnected. She feels like she is a part of conversations again. It has really made all the difference.
By Brenda. Note that this is not a paid endorsement. We just really love that the Boogie Board has solved a communication challenge for us.
We know that seniors can benefit tremendously from visits from family and friends. Not only can a visit brighten a lonely day, but human connection helps to ward off the health decline that can result from extended social isolation. With our focus on helping them, it is easy to see how we come to think of seniors as being the receivers and us the givers.
The truth is, there are myriad ways that the lines blur between giver and receiver when we spend time with older people. Here are just a few.
Feeling unappreciated? Visit a senior.
Few people will appreciate your time more than a senior citizen who has lost their independence and spends the bulk of their time alone. You may spend your entire day with work colleagues, but when is the last time you had a truly captive audience? If you have something you need to talk about, it’s a good bet that you will find that outlet with a senior. With their unique perspective, you could be pleasantly surprised in terms of the quality of advice you receive.
Need to slow down?
None of us needs to be reminded that today’s pace of life can be frenetic at times. Not so for seniors. Even those older friends and relatives who are living independently recognize the value of slowing down and appreciating the moment. When you need to take a breather, visit a senior and they will remind you why it’s important to cherish the little things in life.
How’s your health?
Whether an elderly relative is active or compromised due to health reasons, it should serve as a reminder to take care of yourself. Life gives you back what you put into it and poor health choices made now will show up down the road. Pay attention to genetics, eat well, exercise, and take care of your mental health. It could drastically affect your lifestyle as you get older.
Loneliness is the bane of many a senior’s existence. The older you get, the more treasured friendships become. If you haven’t taken the time to value and prioritize friends early in life, you could be heading for a lonely old age. Isn’t it time you set up that coffee date you were putting off?
Learn a skill.
Despite health issues, many seniors continue to take part in hobbies like knitting, woodworking, or bridge. Learning skills now that you can carry through retirement and into old age will help to guarantee an active mind and social connection. Why not spend part of your next visit learning from someone who knows?
Teach a skill.
Don’t give up on someone because of their age. Do some research and see if there is a new tool or technical gadget that could enhance the life of a senior you know. Many are eager to learn. You may be surprised at their level of interest and you will feel a sense of accomplishment when you teach them to use something new.
Keep their stories alive.
Ask questions. Did they have a great love that got away? A story that they always wanted to tell? Are there skeletons in the family closet? You could be vastly entertained while being handed a new role as the official family story teller. You may never need to go to the movies again!
This site is not about things. We set it up to share stories and foster conversation between generations. But things can sometimes trigger memories and inspire stories, as is the case with this post.
I've been doing a major cleanup around my house. As a result, I've been forced to deal with the various things I have inherited. In many cases, these things are of no particular use to me, but I cannot bear to part with them. They are lovely and deserve to see the light of day but, with nowhere to put them, I instead keep them hidden away in a cupboard.
While contemplating a few of these things a thought came into my head: "I need a china cabinet."
I don't seriously want a china cabinet, nor do I have room for one, but that is the only logical place to store these items--cut glass dishes, a Royal Albert tea cup, another tea cup given to me by my grandmother, and a bowl that may or may not be carnival glass.
Although something of an anachronism now, we probably all have relatives for whom the china cabinet was a point of pride. Just hearing the phrase brings a picture to mind of my grandmother's. It was large; a focal point for her modest dining room. My mother-in-law also had one, very similar in style to that of my grandmother: dark, cherry-hued wood, top-heavy in appearance, ornate trim and fixtures, with large glass doors on the upper section and cupboards and drawers on the bottom.
In the cabinet were treasures like these tea cups and the marigold "ruffle bowl," as those in the carnvial glass trade call it:
The cabinet was also the place for cut glass, which sparkles beautifully but is very heavy and not entirely suitable to my family of four.
I have decided to start using some of the glass serving dishes for their intended purpose, but what to do with the other treasures? I love dainty tea cups but find them less than practical. Same goes for the ruffle bowl. Even if I could see a way to use them, I'd be too scared of breaking them.
The quandary of what to do with parents' and grandparents' treasures is one that many people have faced. Some have come up with very creative ways to re-purpose these items. This is a topic we'll come back to time and again in this blog, focusing on our own special things.
We'd love to hear your ideas too. Leave a comment here or on our Instagram, where we'll be posting pictures of our treasures.
It's that time of year. Putting up the tree this past weekend, I came across some of my favourite vintage ornaments. They came from my mother-in-law and never fail to bring back memories. She always had a fully decorated tree, including the ornaments here. The thought of it brings to mind her Christmas Eve gatherings: 25-30 family members seated at folding tables set with the fine silverware and china, and a traditional homemade Slovak meal of perogies, sauerkraut and mushroom soup, and bobalki--little balls of bread coated in honey and poppyseeds. When the grandkids were young, they would gather around their grandma and sing carols before opening presents. Wonderful memories.
We'd love to hear some stories of Christmas past. How did your parents or grandparents decorate for the holidays? What were some of the most meaningful or memorable gifts they received as children?
There is probably a stark contrast between then, when one gift would have been cherished, and now, when families spend hundreds on multiple gifts. There's some good perspective to be gained in these stories. To share one from your family, please email us at TalkingToSeniors@gmail.com.