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Showing Love to a an Older Adult

Showing Love to a an Older Adult

by LaBrena Friend, LBSW

On our calendars, we just checked off Valentine’s Day – a day when the whole world seems focused on expressions of romantic love.  But how do we show love to the older adults in our lives – the parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends who have meant so much in our lives, and whose own worlds may now be growing smaller?

For me, that question came front and center a few years ago when my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. This was a difficult time for my family. But I knew that, above all, what I wanted my grandmother to feel was how loved she was. Since then, I have been spending more time with her – as much as I can. We talk, and I listen to her tell stories about her life. We hug a lot, and I always give her a kiss. We take pictures on my phone and look at them together. I can see that these simple moments bring my grandmother joy, and this is a comfort to me.

At the same time, I realized that my father’s three sisters – the aunts who have loved and cared for me all my life – are also getting older. So, I have set up a schedule for my “auntie time.” I phone each of them once a month, and we catch up. I ask how things are going in their lives, and I share my own news. They know I’m busy with my work and my own home life, and they can feel that I want to share this time with them because I appreciate them. Like my grandmother, they can feel my love.  

If you’d like to find simple ways to express your love to an older adult, here are a few ideas:

  • Listen – Ask your friend or loved one about their life. Listen to their stories, and seek their advice. Most likely, you will learn something, and they will appreciate being heard.
  • Spend quality time – Life is busy during our working years, but if you have time for a monthly phone call, then put that on your calendar, and you’ll be glad you did. If you can visit them, or take them out to lunch, even better.  
  • Send a note – Receiving a note or card from you can mean the world to an older person.
  • Lend a hand – If you know your friend has trouble getting to the grocery store, offer to drive them, pick up what they need, or help them order through a delivery app. If they’re having trouble learning to use a new phone, see if you can help, or find someone who can.
  • Physical touch – I think sometimes we get scared to hug older people as their bodies grow frail. But holding someone’s hand, or offering a gentle hug, is a universal, wordless way to show affection.

CJFS supports older adults and their families as they navigate the journey of aging. Customized services include, but are not limited to, care management, emotional support, transportation and escorted medical visits. To learn more, call 205.879.3438.