Health Watch/Aspirus Keweenaw/Gladys Polzien, Director of Operations

I recently found this article in the Aspirus Senior Health blog at WordPress by Ashly Schmidt who is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Therapist and I thought she had some great tips and activities to share. The winter months with its cold snowy days can become long and boring for all ages especially our aging loved ones. The following activities are fun ideas to do with our older parents or relatives during the months when we all tend to stay indoors.

Music/Singing – music is a great way to help bring enjoyment to all. Turn on your parent’s favorite type of music or style of music while preparing a meal. This is a great time to sing together.

Baking/Cooking – baking and cooking old family recipes is a great way to preserve a tradition or reminisce about the past. Baking and cooking can be a fun family activity for any age. Include everyone in the family to assist: the children, yourself and your elderly parents. By working together, you can learn the tips and tricks that have been passed down from generation to generation. During this time, you can also write down the recipes that are being created. Many times the old family recipes are done by memory and have not yet been written down. This can be an opportunity to preserve traditions. In our family, I had time to show my daughter Katie how to make pierogi like her grandmother and great grandmother did. We made some the traditional way and we created a new pierogi filling to add to our collection- the new variation was delicious! I also took the time to send a copy of the recipe to my daughter -in-law Kelly to try. During the whole process we shared stories about the years of pierogi making and agreed that all of our hard work was fun and worth it at the end of the day.

Decorate – Decorating the home for a holiday or birthday is a great way to set the mood. Bringing out old decorations or making new ones can bring out great memories and stories. If your elderly parent has some mobility impairment they can be given simple tasks like unwrapping the old decorations or telling you or the grandkids where to put each item. This again is another family activity that everyone can be part of. For example, a fun idea to try for Valentine’s Day next month is to make old time Valentine heart decorations out of colored paper and tape up on windows or the walls in your home.

Community Events -During the long months of winter, there are many events at the schools or local colleges. For example, look in the local newspaper or online for dates and times of athletic events. If a grandchild, niece or nephew is having a game locally, invite your elderly parent along. If they are unable to attend, record the game and play it for them later.

Reminisce – Take time to reminisce about the past. Take out some old photos and share with kids and grandparents. The stories that are told can be a great way to get grandchildren and grandparents to connect. It’s great for kids of this generation to hear about how different life used to be.

Crafts – Making a craft is a great way to spend time together. Grandkids can help a grandparent or the other way around. There are so many ideas available online from a Google search to Pinterest.

Board/Card Games – games are a fun activity to pass the time. Games are a way to laugh together, spend time together and just enjoy being together. There are so many options that are simple enough for all ages to meet the needs of your family. One of our family’s favorite is UNO.

Tips to help make things easier for elderly parents and grandparents

Make sure they have enough light, large print if possible and their glasses. Individuals might not want to participate if they can’t see. Make sure they have their hearing aids in and on if they use them. Also remember to talk slowly and clearly so they can understand what you are saying. If you have a loved one with limited mobility or fine motor skills, remember to adapt activities to allow them to participate. Even if they are just giving directions on how to do something, they can be part of an activity. For elderly parents or grandparents with dementia, try to do an activity that they would have done when they were younger. Singing a song can trigger a memory and they might start singing along.

Enjoy your winter; spring is only three months away.

Editor’s note:?Gladys Polzien is an RN, MSN, CHPN and director of operations at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice.