The famous Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” With aging can come more physical challenges, potentially some cognitive ones, and a general sense of needing to slow down a bit. If you’re looking for ways to support an aging loved one, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s life a little easier and to show that you care.
1. Spend Some Time on Health
Helping your aging loved one to eat healthy meals can be one of the best ways to not only slow the aging process but to spend some quality time together. Cooking healthy, nutrient-rich foods can help make the body work at its optimal best. It can offer your loved one not only a break from cooking but add some much-needed and beneficial social time to their day.
Going out together for walks one of the best ways to help a senior stay healthy. Regular walking fights off weight gain and obesity, which is one of the root causes of many chronic and deadly diseases. Walking improves cardiovascular health and the immune system, and it reduces arthritic pain. Additionally, a 2015 study in London showed that walking 25 minutes daily added years to the life spans of participants.
2. Assist With Financial Planning
While it can be a difficult topic to approach, helping your aging loved one to plan ahead for death expenses can relieve stress in the long run. Many people become worried that their families will have financial burdens due to funeral and burial costs. As tough as that conversation might be, it’s essential to talk with your family member about financial plans. Discuss ways to pay for the funeral as well as what his or her wishes are for after their death. Approaching these topics early and putting a plan into place can help reduce family stress long-term. Everyone will know what to expect and they will be clear on your loved one’s wishes—hopefully saving your family from arguments later on.
There are many ways that your loved one can benefit from financial assistance and programs now. For example:
- Senior discounts
- Social Security-related benefits
- Medical assistance
- Homestead exemptions
- Veterans benefits
- Housing-related benefits
- Long-term care insurance
Such programs can help save thousands of dollars and make your senior’s daily living expenses more manageable. Helping to make phone calls and deciphering government documents may also be greatly appreciated.
3. Provide Tech Help
Lots of seniors want to stay connected with family and friends online. In fact, Pew Research Center says 67 percent of adults over age 65 had Internet in their homes in 2017. Many are using the same new devices as everyone else – but they might need tutorials to get started and perhaps some extra help navigating social networks if they’re new to them. Additionally, they may appreciate some simple tech help to work through glitches. Help them understand the potential dangers from scammers and phishing, and ensure they know how to set privacy settings (or help them to do it). They need to make sure that what they share is being seen only by the people they want to engage with.
Also, if your aging loved one is interested in getting more connected, you can help direct them to the most engaging and accessible social media platforms for seniors, including Facebook and Skype. Both can help them to stay in touch with family members who have moved away and offer face-to-face video chatting. Sitting with them through the first session or two can help your senior loved one feel more comfortable with using the sites on their own.
4. Help Them to Stay Social
While staying social online is an important tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, studies show seniors remain healthier when they have a strong in-person social network as well. Ensure that your loved one is getting the social time that they need. It’s important to know and understand that there may be underlying issues such as hearing problems or incontinence that make a senior reluctant to venture away from home but can be easily addressed with a doctor’s visit or the right products.
Find out about senior groups or activities in their living community or neighborhood and ask about interests. Many communities have groups for crafting, card-playing, or church services. Public libraries often have special interest groups available. Having a regular meeting time with peers can keep your loved one’s social connections going. Offer rides when needed or help them to figure out bus schedules and pick-up times.
5. Help to Make Things Happen
If the senior you know is driving less or giving up driving altogether, offer them rides. Taking them shopping or to doctor’s appointments can be a lifeline. If they don’t wish to go out themselves, ask them what they need you to do. Get a list of items they need and pick them up the next time you’re at your local grocery or discount store. Or offer to shop online and send needed items to your loved one’s home. Ask if they’d like a restaurant meal at home, take-out style, and then stay for a card game or to watch a favorite program.
Online meal delivery services can be an excellent gift for an aging person, especially if they still enjoy cooking but aren’t as keen on going out to the grocery store. Services range from delivery of whole groceries to completely assembled meals, ready to cook. Many are subscription services and allowing you to choose the frequency of delivery. Some allow you to send your own delivery to someone else as desired.
Offer to pick up prescriptions for your loved one and to drop off items like laundry or dry cleaning. Ask if they need any cleaning done, and either offer to do it. Or, as an alternative, you can offer to pay for a cleaning service to come in regularly. Some seniors who are losing some mobility may find it difficult to care for their nails. Look into mobile manicurists or offer to take them for a ‘spa’ day and have a mani-pedi together.
Seemingly simple things may become harder for your aging loved one to manage, and offering to do them can feel like a gift.
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