One of the great joys of a grandparent’s life is spending time with their grandchildren. As children get older and family schedules become more complicated to balance, it’s important to carve out time and include the younger generation in family visits, whether grandparents live at home or in a senior living community.
You may be surprised to learn that in addition to strengthening family bonds, visiting with family members is also beneficial for a senior’s physical and mental health. Below, we’ve gone into detail of the positive health benefits family visits can have on seniors in addition to some tips for a pleasant visit between grandchildren and grandparents.
Positive Health Benefits of Being Close to Grandchildren in Later Years
Besides swapping family stories and creating new memories, there are physical and mental health benefits visits with grandchildren have on seniors, including:
Improved Brain Health
Seniors who socialize regularly, such as family visits, typically have a higher level of cognitive function. Cognitive health affects all areas of a senior’s daily life, but most importantly can prevent memory loss and dementia.
Lower Risk of Depression
Seniors with close family relationships often have better mental health and a lower risk of depression caused by loneliness and/or isolation than seniors who do not. Family visits show seniors they are cared for and not forgotten!
Socially active older adults have been found to have less stress and anxiety, which has major health benefits for their bodies including increases in cardiovascular health and their immune system.
More Physical Activity
When grandchildren come to visit, you may notice grandparents acting like kids themselves! In order to keep up with their pint-sized visitors, grandparents will play and engage in more physical activity, promoting overall better physical health.
Tips For Bringing Grandchildren to See Grandparents
To ensure for a smooth and enjoyable visit, keep these tips in mind:
Prep Kids for their Visit
If your child has never been to a senior living community or seen their grandparents outside of their usual home, it can be quite a shock to their surroundings. Prepare children ahead of time for their visit by explaining where they’re going and what it’s going to be like. This may include nursing home rules, new things they might encounter at the community, and prepping them of the physical and mental changes they might notice in their grandparents (especially if there’s been a deterioration in health since their last visit).
Come With an Activity
Let’s face it, we all have short attention spans, but kids’ are even shorter! To keep children engaged and participating, having a pre-planned activity you can pull out of your bag to keep visits engaging. Activity ideas include reviewing a family photo album, scrapbooking, playing a board/card game, or having grandparents teach grandchildren their favorite hobby (like knitting, gardening, photography, etc.).
Have Conversation Starters
When you’re visiting grandparents in a new surrounding like a nursing home, assisted living or independent living community for the first time, conversation can be uncomfortable at first. Try breaking the ice with some go-to conversation starters, like retelling pivotal family memories, discussing your ethnic heritage, sharing jokes, comparing today to back then, or discussing everyone’s new favorite hobby.
Plan an Off-Site Outing
If their senior living arrangement and health permit it, taking your loved one offsite on a day trip with the kids is a great way to offer a change of scenery and prevent seniors and kids from getting tired of the senior living community. For outings, think of stimulating activities that entertain both young and old. This can be a trip to the zoo, a favorite restaurant, a movie, or even back to your home to prepare a meal together.
Distance is Not an Excuse
If you miss a visit, or even if you aren’t physically close to grandparents, modern technology makes it so easy to maintain contact and continue to strengthen your relationship. Email, Skype, phone calls, social media, and even texting are all ways today’s tech-savvy grandparents like to keep in touch with grandchildren. If your loved one isn’t familiar with the newer technology, one in-person visit can be spent setting them up and teaching them how to use them for future communication with you.