7 Ways to Include Elderly in Family Gatherings

When They Can't Be There

video chat at family gathering

Summertime means family gatherings and celebrations. Events such as weddings, family reunions, and graduations are a time for families to celebrate. But many older adults with health, mobility, and dementia issues can end up feeling left out.

Can you honor your eldest family members even when you don’t take them to the event?

Of course, it’s not your intent to exclude them. You want your aging parents or grandparents involved in these family gatherings. After all, family is their legacy. These milestone events are opportunities to honor the eldest members.

But including your frail elders in these occasions depends on a lot of factors. Including travel difficulties, venue, accessible bathrooms, and their stamina. Also, many elders get anxious when their familiar routine is disrupted. Plus, keeping up with time schedules, commotion, and conversations can be hard on them.

Before deciding whether to take your aging parents or grand-parents to a family gathering, talk with them. Discuss all the details for attending the event. Honor them by letting them be part of the decision.

What things should you discuss with your elder about the event? 

Describe the travel required, venue, housing, costs, and other logistics. Will you need costly wheelchair transport?

Ask them how they feel about the hustle and bustle at the gathering itself.

Remind them of your other roles and responsibilities, if any, at the event. Set your own boundaries. Know what you can and can’t do - or are willing to do.

Let your elder know they may not get your undivided attention. Instead, it may be necessary to hire a caregiver or traveling companion.

7 Ideas for when it's not workable for your elderly loved one to attend the family gathering in person: 

1 Help them attend a family gathering virtually

Use livestream technology to include your elderly loved one. It’s easy to set up at a wedding, graduation, reunion, or any other special event.

Get a tech savvy volunteer or hire techie helpers. You’ll need someone on both ends – at the event and with your loved one. The helper at the event needs to run the camera. The other can manage the TV, iPad, or computer for your elderly family member.

You can use YouTube Live, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, Zoom, or other similar services. For how to instructions go to:  3 Simple Ways to Livestream and Live stream Your Event from EventBrite. You can also find tutorials on YouTube Live Streaming from Google Support.

Just be sure to practice ahead of event day.

2 Set up your elderly loved one “as if they were there” -

Even though they may be at home in a wheelchair or hospital bed help them get into the mood by dressing the part.  

Be sure she has a new dress for the occasion with a corsage. Get her hair and nails done before hand. Make sure great granddad has a dress shirt, suit jacket, and boutonniere.  

Arrange for flower delivery. If there’s a special cake at the event, have cupcakes made so they can celebrate too.

3 Make time for live chats

Even if you don’t livestream the entire event, at least make time for some live chat calls.

Depending on the event, have the bride, groom, grad, or other attendees take time for live face-to-face engagement with their elders.

4 Give your elderly family member a role in the event

Pre-record and show a special video message from your elderly loved one at the event. Let them give a toast, say a blessing, or share a special message – all on video.

5 Video record the event

If you can’t livestream, then video record the event. It’s not the same but you can still make it a special occasion when watching the video together at a later time. (see #7)

6 Set up a video booth at the event

Set up a video booth at the event. Video tape attendees giving special messages to their elderly family members. Let them share heartfelt stories or memories. Provide questions as prompts if you want.

7 Have a post event party

When all the pictures and video clips have been turned into a movie, throw a party. Show the video (or a condensed version) at your loved one’s assisted living, or care home. 

Invite friends, other residents, and nearby relatives. Perhaps the bride and groom, or grad can make a surprise appearance.

Serve cake and refreshments.

It's true. Family gatherings aren’t complete without all the family. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. Include your elderly family members who can’t personally attend by getting creative.

Now it’s your turn. How have you included frail elderly in your gatherings?

Share your tips and ideas. Let us know what went well and what you’d do different.

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Jason Orr

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