Few things can brighten a senior’s day like a visit from their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These visits can help add purpose to a senior’s life and help them maintain a connection to a world outside the facility and to the family. It also gives the grandchildren a valuable chance to get to know the grandparent. Being able to see how much they mean to older family members is an important experience for the child. But it can be challenging to think of ways to make this time meaningful and enjoyable.
The first step is to prepare the child for visiting the facility. Describe what it’s like and perhaps even show pictures. Explain the purpose of assisted living and why the family decided grandma or grandpa should be there. Explain what behavior will be expected. Be sure to emphasize how happy the senior will be to see the child, but also make sure they know that their grandparent may not be feeling well that day.
What to do during the visit can be a challenge. If everyone just sits around in grandma’s room, it will be boring for the children and unsatisfying for the senior. Instead, have a plan. Here are some ideas:
- Bring children at a time when the residents are socializing. That way, the senior can introduce the child to friends and have a chance to show off their wonderful grandchildren.
- Wear Halloween costumes so that the grandparent can see in person how cute they look and what creative ideas everyone came up with. There may be other holidays where the children are dressing up, such as Purim or Christmas, and they can show their grandparent their special outfits for these times too.
- Have children bring a recent school project that they can show to their grandparent. Seniors are likely to be very interested in seeing what kids are learning in school these days. If the project is about something the senior doesn’t know about, that gives the child a chance to be the teacher.
- Play games. The child can bring a favorite game to share with the grandparent, and it’s likely that the grandparent has a favorite game of their own that they can teach the child.
- Decorate the senior’s room for an upcoming holiday. Decorations often bring out lots of excitement in children, and seniors will feel loved and have a reminder of the visit after the children have left.
- Share riddles and jokes and silly songs. Children might be very interested to hear some of the songs the grandparent remembers from when they were the child’s age.
- Bring photographs or video of a recent event in the child’s life, such as a chorus concert, ball game, or scouting trip. Have the child tell the grandparent stories about what happened.
- If you’re willing to take on a bigger project, talk to the assisted living facility and the child’s school about arranging a class visit. The children could sing for the seniors or perform a skit. Another idea is to have children interview the seniors about their lives, and use the information to write short biographies that can be compiled into a collection for both seniors and the children to keep.
Seniors will be especially delighted to receive gifts, and children will feel good preparing something for them. Have children draw a picture or make a card for their grandparent. You also might consider baking sweets or making some other kind of favorite food with the child that they can then give to the senior.
These are just a few ideas as to how you can create wonderful memories from children’s visits. Just because a grandparent is now in assisted living, their relationship with the family doesn’t have to suffer. In the process, children will learn valuable lessons about giving and bringing cheer to others, and they will get to enjoy precious time with their grandparent that they’ll be able to remember one day when they’re gone.