At Companions for Seniors, we know how truly special it can be to spend time with the elderly. Our companions often say that getting to hear stories and connect with their senior clients make for some of the best parts of the day — and we couldn’t agree more!
At the same time, our companions know that it can sometimes be difficult to get a senior to step out of his or her shell. As a loving family caregiver to an aging adult, you may have noticed that getting your loved one to open up and share their thoughts can be challenging, for any number of reasons. Some seniors may have difficulty communicating due to changes to their sense of hearing, or cognitive changes that impact their memory. For others, it can simply be daunting to express themselves or share what’s on their mind, even with their closest loved ones.
Fortunately, if you’re looking to enrich and deepen your connection with the older adult in your care, there are lots of ways to find common ground and start communicating.
Here are seven powerful, meaningful, and creative ways to help connect with the senior in your life:
Art and Music
Art is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Experiencing and creating all types of art can be truly transformative — and makes for a powerful, accessible way to connect with your older loved ones. In fact, studies have shown that painting and sculpting can help promote better cognitive function, benefiting those with dementia and other forms of memory loss. Being creative can also help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Writing, painting, crafting, playing an instrument, and listening to music can all be incredibly calming and refreshing activities, for people of all ages.
Even better, these activities can give you the chance to spend quality time bonding with your elderly loved one. Talk about the wonderful memories brought up by listening to their favorite song. Converse freely with one another as you work side by side on paintings of a landscape. Make new memories that you’ll treasure forever by going to a local museum or watching a documentary on their favorite artist.
Cooking and Sharing a Meal
Food is one of the cornerstones of our culture. Sharing a meal is fundamental to the human experience. Across generations and belief systems, coming together to eat is a ritual that carries real weight. Mealtimes are for getting nutrients and sustenance — but they’re also about having important conversations, sharing memories, and bonding with the people in life who matter most.
For seniors, mealtimes can be challenging — particularly when they’re spent alone. According to one prominent report, about one in five seniors say that they “feel lonely when eating alone” most or some of the time. More than 75 percent of seniors say that “they wish their families shared more meals together,” and seniors who live alone point to a “lack of companionship” as one of the biggest problems they face at mealtimes.
Try to share meals with your senior loved ones as often as possible. Breaking bread together can be an incredible opportunity to exchange ideas, share stories, or simply enjoy the warm glow of one another’s company. Eating together can give the opportunity to check up on your loved one’s health and well-being, and may give you enough one-on-one time to get into discussions you might otherwise put off. Similarly, spending time in the kitchen can be a great way to bring generations together, to share memories and pass down treasured cultural traditions and recipes.
For those times when scheduling meals with your loved one isn’t in the cards, a senior companion can be an invaluable resource. A companion can help your loved one cook and eat delicious and nutritious meals, while making sure that they have a true friend at the table for swapping stories and talking about the day.
Growing up, was your mom a maven at the backgammon table? Has your dad always been a maestro at chess, or a card shark when it comes to all things poker? If your senior loved one has a passion for games, try to make time to sit down with them and play away.
Studies have shown that older adults who regularly stimulate their brains with active, educational activities — including many types of board games, card games, and puzzles — tend to score much higher on memory and cognition tests. Playing games can help encourage your loved one to focus and practice their problem solving skills, while also giving them the chance to relax, cut loose, and have fun. Playing games together can also be a great chance to connect and bond, whether you’re chatting over a game of checkers or putting your heads together over a particularly perplexing puzzle. Not feeling up to a long game night? A senior companion can be a great sub, helping your loved one remain engaged and entertained by joining them in their favorite game when you need some time away.
It’s hard to overstate the remarkable health benefits of nature. Research has shown that spending time surrounded by plants, animals, and fresh air can:
- Boost cardiovascular and metabolic health
- Strengthen the immune system
- Help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
- Boost energy levels
- Improve memory and concentration
Helping your loved one enjoy the wonders of nature can also be a great chance to bond and spend some quality time together. Go for a relaxing walk or picnic in a nearby park. Enjoy a meal out on their back deck and watch the sunset. Help your aging loved one take care of their houseplants, or tend to their yard and garden. While you soak up the beauty of nature, talk about things you’re thankful for, or simply enjoy some peaceful quiet time together.
Sharing Memories and Telling Stories
The next time you visit your parent or another elderly loved one, don’t be afraid to ask them all the questions you’ve always wondered about.
Most older adults can’t wait to share their memories, thoughts, and experiences. One of the best ways to connect with the aging adult in your life may be to simply be present, and give them an audience. Be an active listener. Communicate that you are open to talking by getting rid of distractions (such as noises from the TV or radio), making eye contact, and showing support by nodding your head or gently asking clarifying questions. If your loved one has trouble communicating due to hearing loss, dementia, or any other condition, try to be accommodating and receptive.
Looking for a few ways to get the ball rolling? You may be able to prompt your loved one to share their favorite stories and memories by:
- Asking questions about their childhood or early life
- Paging through old photo albums or scrapbooks
- Going for a drive and talking about their community or neighborhood
- Asking them to walk you through their favorite recipe
- Organizing their home and talking about the interesting or meaningful items you find around the house
Learning a New Skill or Activity
Studies have shown that working alongside someone can make it easier to reach your goals — and make the experience of getting there even more meaningful. For example, research suggests that people are more likely to achieve their goals if they share their struggles and successes with an accountability partner. People who have someone to talk to also tend to stick to their plans and be more productive in the long-term.
Try to be encouraging of your elderly loved ones, and help them find new goals to reach for and skills to learn. You could even join them in their journey by picking up the same hobby or practice alongside them! Encourage your loved one to dream big — and then help them break down their loftiest goals into more manageable, realistic steps, so they are more likely to stay committed and build up positive habits.
Looking for a few ideas to bring up with your elderly loved one? There are lots of activities, skills, and hobbies that you can work toward side-by-side, enriching your lives while deepening your connection along the way, like:
- Learning a new language
- Picking up a new hobby, such as knitting, crocheting, or cross-stitching
- Researching a fun new subject, such as science or history
- Examining your family history or genealogy
- Writing poetry, or brainstorming ideas for a storybook or novel
- Focusing on a new physical activity or exercise routine
Getting Active In the Community
It can be incredibly enriching for seniors to be able to go out, see people, make new friends, and stay engaged in their community. As a family caregiver, it can also be remarkably fulfilling to see your loved one open up and show new sides of themselves in social situations.
Sometimes, the best way to connect with your loved one may just be to help them find and connect with others. There are lots of ways for older adults to get involved in their communities — especially if they have the support and love of a family caregiver to make things easier.
Spend some time looking for opportunities for older adults in your area. Depending on what you find, you may encourage and assist your loved one in volunteering at a local community organization, spending time at a senior center, getting more involved at their church or temple, or enrolling for classes at a local gym or adult education center.
For those times when you cannot offer your loved one a ride to their next outing or meetup, a senior companion may be able to step in and help! A companion can provide reliable transportation services, so you can rest assured that your loved one always feels empowered and supported to go out and live life to the fullest.
Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help
Ready to reach out for help in shouldering some of the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for an elderly loved one? Looking for a senior companion to help ensure that the senior in your life can remain independent, and lead an active and enriched lifestyle? That’s where we come in!
At Companions for Seniors, our trained and bonded companions are passionate about empowering the elderly to live more independently. Our mission is to help seniors live with dignity in the comfort of their own home, while connecting them with their community and helping to nurture meaningful relationships.
Our companions are available on flexible schedules to spend time with the senior in your life. Whether your loved one needs transportation services, a helping hand with everyday activities, or just a friendly face around the house, our caregivers can help give your senior loved one the personalized attention and support they need – while giving family caregivers like you a much-needed chance to rest and recharge.
Curious about how to set up a personalized care plan for the aging adult in your life? Reach out online today, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started!