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Treasuring and Nurturing Relationships with Elders
The emotional bond between teens and their grandparents is powerful – a recent Boston College study found that close ties across the generations are greatly beneficial to the mental health of both.
However, many young people worry about losing their grandparents in the future, and the idea of them not being around can be distressing. Being knowledgeable about life and loss can only do one thing: help us to understand the value of time and motivate us to make the most of it.
Connect Them to Technology
If there’s one thing teens are natural at, it’s understanding technology.
Tech like smartphones and tablets have almost become a physical extension of the self, but this isn’t necessarily the case for your grandparents. There are dedicated apps for seniors living at home which you can use to help manage their schedule, remind them to take medication, and even remember their appointments.
Anyone who spends time with them (including other family members and friends) can teach seniors how to use this technology effectively. Be patient when doing so. Many seniors reject digital technologies because they see them as difficult and time-consuming. Setting them small daily goals will help them learn and become more confident with technology.
For some, smartphones and tablets can be a real lifeline, since they permit seniors to connect with friends who may live in other cities or countries, via apps like Facebook, Viber and Skype. By sharing your knowledge with your grandparents, you can make the most of your with them while helping them to stay connected.
Coping with Physical Changes
Health conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis may mean that your grandparent, who was once so active and fit, is now unable to go for a trek or bike ride with you. Still, most seniors will be advised to enjoy daily exercise, and there is no reason why you can’t join them.
A daily walk to the park or seaside with you can help your grandparents feel secure and accompanied. It is also a fantastic time to share memories and to have a unique moment in which you have your grandparent ‘all to yourself.’
Perhaps you can’t do the same activities with them that you once enjoyed together, but by adapting to their needs, you can find ways to connect with them as you always have done.
Alzheimer’s And Other Challenges
Alzheimer’s is very common, so if your grandparent has this or another mental condition, know that you are not alone.
In the first few years following diagnosis, your grandparent will probably still remember important memories, but they need to be approached in a different manner than in the past. For instance, you should ideally approach them from the front so they know you are there and do not get surprised, speak clearly and ask one question at a time, and give them the time and patience they need to speak confidently.
If your grandparent lives in the family home, try to build daily routines they enjoy. During your bonding time, smiling and touching them warmly, pulling out photo albums, and singing songs they love will help jolt their memory and bring them to the beauty of the present moment.
Watching a grandparent age (physically, mentally, or both) is tough for loving grandchildren. There is so much you can do to make the most of this unique relationship, however. These include making a difference to your grandparents by connecting them up to useful technology and ensuring they stay active by joining them on walks, yoga, or even a session of outdoor Tai Chi.
Ensuring that you stay connected with them as they age will help you to process the changes they’re going through. Simply giving your time, patience, and interest to your grandparent will enable you to grow personally as much as it will let them know that time may pass, but they will always be an important part of your life and memories.
Written by Jackie Edwards