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Middle aged woman going on a walk with her mom, one of our ideas for things to do with elderly parents

10 Things to Do with Elderly Parents

February 26, 2024
Empty Nest

10 Ideas for Ways To Connect With Your Aging Parents 

“Love your parents and be ready to care for them. Many adult children are so busy growing up that they forget that their parents are growing old at the same time.” —John Spence

Finding things to do (or even talk about) with elderly parents can be challenging. Your time and availability is at a minimum, while their physical and mental boundaries can create a deluge of emotional overwhelm for you both. Here are 10 ideas to help you and your parents get out of the “Crazy weather, isn’t it!” rut and open up new ways to connect.  

1. Look for Peter Rabbit 

The magic of Beatrix Potter is she found a new world of adventure right outside her kitchen window. Next time you visit your parents, ask to open the drapes and just look out the window or open the window if the weather is nice. Look for signs of the changing seasons, or use your imagination and wonder aloud what the clouds, bunnies, or birds might be doing. You may be surprised how engaging the conversations will be! 

2. Take Tea  

Plan an afternoon visit and create a traditional English Tea. It may sound frivolous, but there’s something refined and elegant about sipping tea and snacking on tiny sandwiches in the middle of the day. Go all out and make cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, or keep it simple by dressing up your parents’ favorite sweets. Even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste special cut into triangles with no crust. 

This is also a great opportunity to use those dainty teacups and pretty dishes hiding in plain sight in their heirloom cabinet or tucked in the back of a kitchen shelf. Be sure to ask if they remember their parents using the dishes or talk about their favorite special outings as a child. Simple or extravagant, you will all appreciate the time. 

 3. Tackle a Jigsaw Puzzle 

Puzzling is a simple, entertaining way to spend time together. And even if it’s not your jive, it’s way more interesting than the weather. Research shows the cognitive skills used in sorting, finding, and placing pieces can be valuable for memory, problem-solving, and visuospatial cognition. That’s a win for everyone!  

Consider getting a roll up puzzle mat and starting with a 100 piece project. The solid colored felt mat creates an unobtrusive background making it easier to distinguish shapes and colors, and it’s a great space saver! If you don’t finish the puzzle, you can roll it up and put it away until next time. 

4. Go for a Walk 

The walk may be more of a leisurely stroll for you, but anything that gets your bodies moving is an accomplishment. Walking increases levels of vitamin D, improves balance, strengthens muscles, and builds endurance for both of you, even if it’s for a short distance and takes a long time. If your mom or dad use a wheelchair, they will still gain a boost in mood and endorphins from the fresh air and change of scenery.  

5. Have a Movie Night 

Together with your spouse and kids, meet at your parents’ place for a movie night. Research Academy Award winning movies from your parents’ teen or young adult years. Movies are a visual time capsule. Your parents may remember where they saw the movie for the first time or what was going on in their lives when the movie was released, spurring engaging conversation. Remember to bring the movie essentials—popcorn and M&M’S. 

A family with their son having a movie night with the parents and grandparents, three generations, one of our ideas for things to do with elderly parents

6. Plunge Into a Family Research Project 

Grab a notebook and start a family research project. Ask your parents questions about your family lineage, their favorite foods from childhood, or stories about their parents. There are some great options like Storyworth that will walk you step-by-step through writing a personal memoir or Ancestry that can help you do a deep dive into your genealogy. This is also a great project to help your elderly parents connect with their grandchildren or great grandchildren.  

7. Admire Old Photos 

Fling open those photo albums or boxes of pictures sitting in the bottom drawer. Ask your parents about the people, locations, and events that made them photo worthy. If the photos aren’t labeled, this is a great time to connect names with faces.  

8. Start a Book Club 

“What’s the most influential book you’ve ever read?” is a great question for a dinner party, but it’s also a fun way to start a family book club. Pose the question to your parents, get a few copies of the book, and invite your siblings and their spouses to join the book club. Then, set up a lunch or dinner date with everyone to talk about the book and share your takeaways. Your parents may rediscover parts of the book they’d forgotten, and you’ll get an interesting read and terrific conversation. Audiobooks count, too! 

9. Do a Bible Study 

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” —Romans 15:4

Doing a Bible study with those who have been Christians for many years can be enlightening and a great way to connect. You could start with something simple like reading through your elderly parents’ favorite Bible passages or dive into an in-depth study if they’re up for it. Either way, set a regular meeting time when you can work through the study together.  

10. Host a Family Cooking Class 

Ask your parents to help you make one of their favorite meals. Set aside lots of time, so they can walk you through your grandmother’s famous recipe step-by-step. And take a tip from the indomitable Julia Child. As Julia was getting older, she would enthusiastically give instructions while a celebrity chef did the prep and hands on cooking. Though each chef knew how to chop and sauté onions, for example, they would graciously encourage Julia to share techniques, tricks, and advice as the meal was coming together. So take any criticism with a grain of salt and enjoy making a memory. 

The only two requirements in all these activities are time and curiosity. Being willing to try things that aren’t part of your usual routine will create the connection of shared experience and help you develop the art of slowing down. You may even start to appreciate some of your elderly parents’ hobbies and get to know them in a whole new way.  

Get Away for Time for Yourself

If you liked this content, consider getting away for a weekend with your spouse to a Marriage Retreat such as Empty Nest Success, or another of our offerings.

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