Forget about the wrapping paper, never ending holiday sales and the latest electronics. The greatest gift you can give is your time. You get to choose how you spend it and with whom. The holiday season provides a great opportunity to see your grandparents. Spend it wisely. You know cousin Eddie’s RV toilet will always be full, so indulge your grandparents with something more gratifying than watching Christmas Vacation for the 5th time this month. Here’s some senior-friendly activity suggestions to share some joy with Grandma and Gramps.
Sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never’; learn your family’s favourite recipes ‘now’, with the people that perfected them. Bake your Nana’s famous shortbread cookies or discover how your Papa’s tea biscuits taste so darn good. Everybody loves eating them, get the insider family scoop and find out why. If you don’t have a family shortbread recipe, declare one! There are lots of great Christmas recipe ideas here.
The holiday season offers more concerts and singing performances than any other time of the year. But don’t bank on local carollers serenading you from your front yard. Many of these happen at schools, churches, malls, local senior centres and community centres. They are usually free or cost a nominal donation, but check your local paper or community guide. If your grandparent tires easy from prolonged standing, call the venue regarding seating assignments. Perhaps they may need a walker that can provide a mobile seat wherever they are, if seating is an issue.
See the Lights
Every city, town or village has their ‘Griswolds’. You know the family or row of neighbours that take Christmas decorating to an unfathomable level. They have animatronic reindeer and timed lighting over every inch of the house that oscillates in unison to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’.
Get in your car, load Grandpa in, enjoy a hot festive beverage and find them. If you need help locating them, call the hydro company or check the sky for the glow emulating above their home (hint- it’s easier tracking them at night). Or better yet, just ask around, chances are you’re only one or two degrees from knowing your local ‘Clark Griswold’.
You may have your pre-conceptions of bingo halls and the cloud of smoke that encompasses them. But it’s 2016 and that doesn’t happen inside the hall any more (although I can’t speak for the 10 feet outside the back door). If your Granny loves bingo, share that passion with her. You will be amazed at how methodical and skilled she is, combing through columns of numbers and dabbing multiple cards. To add more festive spirit to your bingo date, you could decide beforehand to donate your winnings to a local charity of your Grandmama’s liking. And be sure to choreograph beforehand your high 5 for when you do get it.
But remember, bingo is gambling and people take it seriously. Turn off your cell phone, keep the talking low and to a minimum during the games and if you do win, it’s always a good habit to tip your caller and runner.
In the USA, find the closest bingo hall here.
In Canada check here.
Learn to Knit/Crochet
Once considered a money-saving chore, knitting has entered a renaissance. And what better resource than your Grandmother to be your knitting mentor or sansei. Who knew that a strand of yarn and two sticks (or 1 in the case of crocheting) could create something wearable. Take your DIY mastery to the next level and also experience the calming, zen-like meditative effect of knitting. A scarf is a simple starter project and perfect for the winter. Get Grandma to check your work and soon you will be on your way to knitting freedom. This time next year, you’ll be able to produce your very own ugly Christmas sweater.
Looking for other patterns? Visit redheart.com.
Learn a new game
Your grandparents have experienced the majority of their life without Angry Birds, Minecraft, or Candy Crush. But they still played games that demanded strategy and skill, just without the internet. Explore the offline world of card and board games that your grandparents love.
crokinole – a classic Canadian board game with elements of curling and shuffleboard. Two or four players are required to flick discs across a circular playing surface to land in higher scoring areas. For rules visit here.
euchre – played with 4 people with a deck of 24, it’s a game of trick calling where naming trump determines the intent of winning the hand. For rules check here.
bridge – popular game using 52 card deck between 4 players, similar to euchre it is a trick calling game but with more variation. For rules check here.
backgammon – one of the oldest board games, it involves rolling dice and moving pieces from the board before your opponent.
Yes, you can learn and play any of these games anytime of the year, they are not Christmas-centric. But you can’t play these games any old day of the year with eggnog; that is Christmas-centric. So pour a tall, thick glass and let the games begin.
If you’re reading this, you are fortunate. You have a computer or handheld device. Too many families struggle every holiday season to make ends meet. Help those in need and volunteer with your grandparent at the local food shelter or soup kitchen. Offer your time at a church that provides free Christmas dinner or volunteer at the humane society, walking a dog with your Gran or Gramps.
Still wondering how to help? Contact the Salvation Army to volunteer.