I was corresponding with an elderly lady not too long ago. I told her about this list I had created. I wanted to serve my aging grandparents better, and I wasn’t sure how. She shared her story of how her family used to come home all the time. All her children and grandkids would come home for each holiday. Then, her grandkids started having kids. She said everything seemed to change. Soon, her grown children and grand children were having holidays together. But, very rarely did anyone come back to see them for holidays.
I completely understood what she was saying, and I can see the same thing happening in our family.
All my grandparents (my children’s great grandparents) are in their eighties. My ideas transformed as I thought about my 80 plus year old grandparents. They are not able to get out much. They get very tired very easily, and one of my grandfathers is not in particularly good health. They all live at home still.
Hopefully you can find some ideas here on showing love and respect to your grandparents as they age.
An Amazon Echo
My husband received an Amazon Echo for a Christmas present this year, and after setting it all up, he expressed how great something like this would be for my aging grandmother. Two things to note first: 1. your grandparents need to have decent hearing. 2. They also need to have internet.
After learning basics and how to set it up, here are a few benefits you will find:
1. You can control the Echo in their home from an app on your own phone.2. You can set up a playlist of their favorite music that they can play or you can play for them.
3. You can play Scripture or an audio book for them.
4. Everything is voice activated for them. If they get tired of listening to the music you turned on for them, all they have to say is, ‘Echo, stop.’
5. Here is an article about how it can help your aging grandparents.
6. They can ask the weather, time, temperature, etc at any time that day and Echo responds.
7. They can turn on lights in their home with voice activation.
8.. They can do anything with their voice that you can do from the app on your phone, but sometimes aging grandparents have trouble keeping everything straight. So you can always fix it from your phone.
1. Send your grandparents letters
Going to the mail box is something most eighty year olds can do. It may be part of their afternoon ritual. Bring a little variety to their afternoon walk outside to the mailbox by sending them a letter.
While I feel a hand written letter is much more personable, sometimes a clear and large typed font is easier for the elderly to read.
2. Send them pictures
Grandparents love to receive pictures. These don’t have to be professionally taken. Take pictures of your children playing with their toys or eating their lunch. Take pictures of the normal things of life. You can have them printed off and mail them yourself.
Or, I have found it convenient to use walmart.com. You can save the address of your grandparents in their system. Upload a few pictures to walmart.com’s photo center, and you can quickly request the system to mail them directly to your grandparent’s address.
3. Send your grandparents flowers
I have learned that my grandparents do not need more ‘stuff.’ They are not in need of new clothes or new home decorations. Flowers are pretty for a short time and then they can be thrown away. Especially in the middle of winter, flowers can brighten a day quickly and bring a little of the outside in on a cold day.
4. Set up a bi-weekly or monthly planned phone call
Everyone likes something to look forward to, and I find that my grandparents don’t always have a calendar filled with social events. Schedule a Tuesday evening phone call every other week or once a month. Make it a priority, and your grandparents will love talking with you and their great grandchildren. They will look forward to this phone call.
5. Send them a gift card for their favorite fast food or coffee
My grandparents live in town just a block from Hardees. While I don’t find fast food a great place to eat, it’s a big deal for them to take that walk and go get some coffee in the mornings. Give them a good reason to get out for a short walk when the weather is nice. I am sure they wouldn’t mind you buying their coffee.
6. Make them freezer meals
My grandparents appreciate it when I take them some pre-made food. They don’t always have the energy to cook and they don’t always make it to the grocery store every week. Plus, I have been told by empty nesters that motivation is sometimes hard when you are only cooking for two people, especially after you cooked for a family for years.
Take them food in serving size containers. Frozen soup, lasagna, and freezer burritos are some of my grandparent’s favorites.
7. Ask them if you can help clean their house
Before you go for a visit, call your grandparents and ask if you can help them clean any rooms for them. I recommend planning this ahead of time so you don’t just walk in and appear to be saying, ‘oh dear, we need to clean your house!’ My grandparents have become much more receptive to my help when we plan to clean ahead of time.
8. Frame some art work for them
Take a drawing or picture of your children’s art and send it to them. Or, give them a specific frame for the children’s art. Change the art work in it every time you go. Your grandparents will have updated art to look at after every visit.
Have you ever asked your grandma how her doctor’s appointment went, and she can’t really give you a clear answer? If your grandparents are having some major medical complications, find out when their appointments are scheduled, and ask if you may accompany them.
Talking with their doctor can clear up a lot of confusion. This is good for your grandparents and other family members who are concerned.
10. Ask if you can pick up groceries for them
My grandparents run out of energy fast. When I am willing to pick up their groceries, they always take me up on the offer. If you choose to accompany them to the store instead of going in place of them, be sure to always be patient.
11. Take them on a historical drive in their hometown
If your grandparent’s hometown is near where they currently live, take them on a Sunday afternoon drive to the historical district. I guarantee they will love to tell you stories about the old roller skating rink or the old drive in movie theater.
12. Help them with yard work
Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that mowing a yard is one of the last projects a grandpa wants to give up. I think it’s great that my grandpa still wants to mow his yard, and I think it is a task that gives him a sense of accomplishment.
Pulling weeds and trimming shrubs can take a lot more energy. Ask if you can help clean out the flowerbed at the end of the season, and I think your grandparents will willingly let you push the wheelbarrow.
13. Help them pick out Christmas gifts for family members
This is a fine line. My grandma is a gift giver. She always has been. In the recent years, though, her ability to pick out gifts has dwindled significantly. She has a really hard time making a decision, and she still orders through catalogs.
Giving some ideas and offering to pick up some gifts at the local mall has made Christmas gift giving much more fun for her again.
14. Send flower bulbs
Rural living seemed much more common in the era of my grandparents young years. They all seem to have a special flower that their grandma used to plant. Find out what kinds of flowers are important to your grandma. Come spring time, send her a bag of flower bulbs to plant. Include a note reminiscing about the stories you’ve heard about that particular flower.
15. Ask your grandparents about the Great Depression or the War
The number of people who have lived through the Great Depression or World war II are dwindling. My grandpa still tells stories about the war. He was in the navy and is the only one left from his ship. His mind is slowly fading, but he stills remembers everything about the war.
16. Give them a house plant or potted tomato plant
Once again, give your grandparents gifts that will not accumulate. A tomato plant is a great idea for the spring. My grandparents used to have a HUGE garden. They don’t have the energy for it anymore, but a potted tomato plant still provides them with the fresh garden taste of a tomato.
17. Send cookies
Do you have memories of baking cookies with your grandma? Do you have cookies that used to get made for every holiday season? Make a batch and send them off. Schedule ahead so you can get to the post office the same day they are baked. Include a note about the good ole’ days of baking cookies together.
What!?! Why!?! I have a grandma who lives nine hours away. It is not practical for me to take my small children and drive nine hours to stay with my grandmother. We would overwhelm her small apartment. Instead, we offer to split the cost of a plane ticket. We do all the reservations and arrange for a wheel chair to meet her at all gates. We have only done this once, and the airport personnel took great care of her. She stayed for three days with us and flew back home.
For our circumstances, this was an ideal plan.
19. Look through old family photographs
When I first met my husband, his grandmother showed me ALL the old family pictures. And, I mean old old old family pictures. I was someone new and someone willing to listen who had not seen all those pictures before.
My new grandmother adored showing me pictures of her grandmother. I began to value the time and learned to appreciate my husband’s family history.
20. Visit your grandparents
Make it a priority to visit your grandparents. They LOVE to see you and their great grandkids. We have learned that short visits are better than long visits. Sometimes unannounced visits are good too. My grandma doesn’t get stressed about cleaning the house if she doesn’t know we are coming.
Most of all, listen to them. Be patient with them. Serve them. I hope these ideas can serve as a small reminder to honor and respect our grandparents!