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Helping Aging Parents Thrive

May 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 196

As your parents age, it can be difficult to maintain the same parent-child dynamic you've always had while increasingly taking on the role of caregiver. Whether your parents are enjoying an active retirement or are part of the community in a skilled nursing center or assisted living facility, these 8 tips can help you help them to thrive during this time of transition.

Encourage Them to Get Active

One of the best ways to improve your parents' state of mind as well as their physical health is to encourage them to stay active. This encouragement can take the form of a gym membership or home exercise equipment purchase, but a free and fun alternative is to exercise with them.

If your schedule allows it, make time to visit your parents and take a walk together. Allow them to set the pace, and chat together as you exercise. You could also enroll in water aerobics or take a yoga class. The shared time will provide just the incentive your parents need to get active, and you'll both strengthen your bond as you strengthen your muscles.

Improve Their Mental Health with Classes

Fitness classes aren't the only way to improve health. In fact, learning something new in the form of a community education class can help seniors stay sharp. You can encourage your parents to take exciting new classes by focusing on the activities that have interested them over the years. Brainstorm together by making a list of everything your parents have enjoyed. Then look through those items to identify what they have in common.

Once you've narrowed down the topics, get out the course catalog from your local community college, library or senior center. Make another list of the classes that match up, and present the options to your parents. If they seem reluctant, you might offer to take the class together.

Bring the Mental Exercise to Them

Another great way to maintain mental focus is to engage in tricky mental activities. Even if your parents are dealing with physical challenges that make it difficult for them to take a community education class, you can bring the mental exercise to them.

Pick up a selection of crossword puzzles, Sudoku books, and mind puzzlers and spend the afternoon together working through a few of the puzzles. Or involve them in a family game of Trivial Pursuit. Alternatively, if your parents aren't fans of these activities, drop off a great selection of books or surprise them with a subscription or two to an interesting magazine.

Help Them Pass on Their Life Lessons

Whether your parents are living independently or require assistance, feeling valued and useful are important for their emotional health. In addition, many people can benefit from the knowledge and wisdom they have gained over the years. Try some of these ideas to help them to pass on some of their life lessons and experiences:

  • Encourage them to volunteer in the community. Whether they choose to mentor new entrepreneurs with a program like MicroMentor or work with school children learning to read, everyone benefits from the experience.
  • Help them make a list of life lessons and print the list up in book form. Topics might include favorite recipes and cooking tips, parenting advice, or other useful tidbits.
  • Work with your parents to record their stories. You can do this in the form of a book or audio tape, or you could work with a professional to create something very special. Whatever method you choose, you and your parents will both be glad that you took the time to preserve their life stories.

Give Them a Social Outlet

While frequent visits and phone calls to your parents are sure to be appreciated, research suggests that having positive friendships actually may be even more important for longevity than regular contact with family. Whether your parents are living independently or with help, encourage them to interact with friends as much as possible.

If your parents are living independently, you might persuade them to start a book club or join a band. Regular card games, dance classes, and senior center activities can also be great places to establish and further cement positive friendships.

For those who have limited mobility, being social may be even more important. While most facilities have extensive social programs, getting involved can seem overwhelming to some seniors. Work with your parents to pick a few activities that interest them, and these can provide a great social outlet.

Get in Touch with a Support Group

Although your role in your parents' lives is changing, you still may find that you cannot provide all the emotional support they need. The retirement years can be challenging for several reasons, including the loss of loved ones, financial challenges, significant life changes, and health concerns.

Listening to your parents can help them navigate these challenges, but many people also need the help of a support group or therapist. These resources may be available in your parents' skilled nursing or assisted living facility. If not or if your parents are living independently, you can encourage them to find a support group or therapist through their local senior center or through a hospital.

Provide a Change of Scenery

No matter what your parents' living situation is like, a change of scenery can be extremely helpful in making the world feel like a bigger, better place. If your parents are healthy, travel is a great way to boost mood and see some amazing sites. Work with them to set up a dream vacation to Europe or a short jaunt to a nearby city.

For those with limited mobility, a change of scenery may mean an outing to a favorite restaurant or a night at the movies. Pick activities your parents will enjoy and coordinate your efforts with the nursing facility or assisted living center where they live. These facilities may be able to provide transportation if your parents need help.

Encourage Them to Practice Mindfulness

One key to helping your parents stay positive and enjoy their retirement years is to encourage them to notice and be present in the moment. When they were raising a family or building a career, they were likely rushing from one task to the next. Now they have a chance to slow down and see the beauty in the world.

You can encourage mindfulness by asking your parents to make a note of or take pictures of something beautiful every day. Then, at the end of the week, take some time to look through what they've created. This activity will boost their moods and yours, and it will also provide an opportunity to bond.

Take Care of Yourself

It's easy to get caught up in the very important role you now fill in your parents' lives. However, remember to take some time for yourself as well. Maintaining balance in your own life will make you a better caregiver, and that will go a long way toward enhancing your parents' retirement years as well.

As president and production manager of Family Line Studios, Susan produces video biographies and family documentaries as a way to preserve and pass on life stories, family history and life lessons. For more information or to view samples, visit

Source: EzineArticles
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