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 fifth time this month. Here are some senior-friendly activity suggestions to share some joy with Grandma and Gramps.
Sometimes “later” becomes “never,” learn your family’s favorite 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’s lots of great Christmas recipe ideas here.
The holiday season offers more concerts and singing performances than at any other time during the year. But don’t bank on local carollers serenading you from your front yard. Many of these performances happen at schools, churches, malls, local senior centers and community centers. They are usually free or cost a nominal donation, but check your local paper or community guide. If your grandparent tires easily from prolonged standing, call the venue regarding the seating assignments. Perhaps your grandparent may need a walker that can provide a mobile seat wherever he or she is, 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 electricity 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.”
If Grandpa needs help getting in and out of the car, the car cane is a great new product that can help get them on their feet and would make a great stocking stuffer.
You may have your pre-conceptions of bingo halls and the cloud of smoke that encompasses them. But it’s 2015, and that doesn’t happen inside the hall anymore (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 choice. And be sure to choreograph beforehand your high five for when you do get it.
But remember, bingo is gambling and people take it seriously. Turn off your cellphone, keep the talking low and to a minimum during the games and if you do win, it’s alway a good habit to tip your caller and runner.
In the U.S.A., 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 sensei? Who knew that a strand of yarn and two sticks (or one, 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 approaching winter. If Grandma needs help checking your work—seeing a botched knot or stitch, a pocket magnifier with 4.5 magnification will help even young eyes locate the problem. And then your 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 knitters and patterns? Visit ravelry.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. Here are the rules.
euchre—played with four people with a deck of 24, it’s a game of trick calling where naming trump determines the intent of winning the hand. Here are the rules.
bridge—a popular game using 52 card deck between four players, similar to euchre, it is a trick calling game but with more variation. Here are the rules.
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.