Five Ways to Keep Older People Happy
What's In a Name?
One way to keep older people happy is to call them "older people" (older farmers, older teachers, etc.), as opposed to "seniors" or "elderly." This is the consensus of several professionals who deal with different aspects of aging. Jane Glen Haas, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, said at the age of 74 that she did not like the term "aging" because it made her feel that she was declining. She was satisfied with the label of "older writer."
Although "older people" may be a safe title, the sure way to make them happy would be to call them by their stated preference. It is all about our attitude toward them.
Happy to have lived long enough to become an older person!
This article suggests ways that younger people can help older people enjoy their later years. It takes into consideration that capable people in the 65+ age group can also use these suggestions with others in their age group to help promote happiness for all parties.
I used to love to sit and listen to the old people talk about yesterday.— Curtis Mayfield
1. Let Them Talk
Older people love to share their wisdom, and it helps to keep them happy if someone will listen with interest, ask questions and declare their information useful. Some of their favorite conversation centers around:
- the good ole' days when standards were higher and people were more reasonable;
- life back then without all the modern conveniences that are available now;
- the present state of affairs--social, political, spiritual;
- their children, if they turned out well; or their disappointment if they didn't;
- their grandchildren--how precocious they are and where they seem to be headed academically and professionally;
- the struggles in which they fought and won.
Telling their stories helps them maintain a sense of well-being. It affirms that they have made some measure of contribution to their world. It gives them a chance to recall their good times. It even makes them feel better if the listener leaves with a promise to come back for more.
The picture of a loving embrace brings back happy memories.
Touch is a communication that transcends age and time.— Comfort Keepers
2. Touch Them
It may surprise many to learn that some appointments older people make with the chiropractor, the beautician and the masseur are motivated by their desire to be touched.
Older individuals separated from spouses by death or divorce, from children and long-time friends by long distances may begin to feel lonely. Hugs, back rubs, holding hands and other touching expressions of affection become scarce.
However, affection is not the only reason that touch keeps them happy. Gentle rubbing of the muscles, as in a massage, releases oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone which helps to relieve tension and also produces a comforting effect.
Make and keep older persons happy by embracing them, rubbing their hands and feet, stroking their backs, massaging their shoulders. Touch them gently and deliberately.
Old people are lonely without children, children are lonely without parents. Why not bring them together?— Zhou Xun
3. Include Them
People never outgrow the need to feel that they belong. Older people in groups that are organized for them get some satisfaction from mingling and participation, but their sense of belonging is also boosted by involvement in communities which are not age-specific.
Better to invite them and allow them to decline than take it for granted that they are not interested in certain events. The invitation itself gives them some desired recognition.
- It doesn't have to be their grandchildren performing for them to enjoy a children's concert.
- Despite the fact that the party hostess is the only one they know, they may enjoy getting out to the Sunday brunch.
- They may just be good company during the afternoon ride to the farmer's market.
When their presence is appreciated, they feel more comfortable to be themselves, to make suggestions, even to share humor.
As we grow older, we must discipline ourselves to continue expanding, broadening, learning, keeping out minds active and open.— Clint Eastwood
4. Challenge Them
Healthy-minded older people believe that they live on for a purpose, which perhaps may be to attempt something they neglected to do in their earlier years. They may also be motivated to try something they recently thought about. Individuals who talk with them may discover their hidden passion, and can help make them happy by gentle probes to think and act outside the aging box.
They appreciate challenges and opportunities to:
- use their talents in religious and civic organizations as contributions to their communities;
- set new personal records in walking, swimming, bowling and any other physical activity which helps to maintain their social and physical health;
- begin or improve new artistic skills like painting, drawing, decorating, creating floral arrangements, woodwork;
- begin or improve computer and Internet skills, gardening, auto-mechanics.
Expressing confidence in their abilities boosts their sense of significance. They realize that they still have much to offer, and without the youthful shyness, fears and doubts which they have already retired, they embrace the joy of new possibilities.
Are there new activities you plan to try now that you are (or when you become) older?
It is gracious to have old people full of vitality and endowed with wisdom in our society.— Lailah Gifty Akita
5. Celebrate Them
The older people get, the more regularly they attend funerals. The brevity of life begins to register on their minds, as does the importance of celebrating the life they still have. They welcome opportunities to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, new births and other new beginnings.
What about celebrating them? At a restaurant dinner (or it may happen at any at-home dinner) one individual can express appreciation on behalf of the group and raise their glasses for the benefit of enjoying the older person's presence.
Have a show-and-tell featuring their trophies which may be nothing more than photographs of special moments. Feed their sense of worth. Express gratitude for their example, for lessons they teach, for assistance they provide, for their favorite sayings which inspire others.
Celebrate them anytime, anywhere, for any reason. Make and keep them happy while they can enjoy their flowers.
Comfort Keepers, "The Power of Touch and What It Means for the Elderly." April 2014.
Graham, Judith, "'Elderly' No More," The New York Times. April 19, 2012.
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© 2017 Dora Weithers