Did you know that in Korea, it’s common to mark one’s 60th and 70th birthdays with special celebrations? The 60th birthday, known as the hwan-gap, stems from bygone eras when life expectancy was much lower, and therefore achieving this milestone was truly an occasion to rejoice. And kohCui, a person’s 70th birthday, actually means “old and rare.”
Here in the United States, we respect our elders — but it’s not often that we celebrate them. Senior Citizens Day, August 21, is a time to do just that. Here are some suggestions for showing your parents, grandparents, or senior friends just how much you appreciate them!
1. Take Them Out to Use Their Senior Discount
There is an incredible number of senior citizen discounts available at restaurants, coffee shops, supermarkets, retail stores, and hotels. You can even find discounts for services such as cell phone plans, prescription drug coverage, Amtrak accommodation, cruises, car rentals, and air travel.
Some of these are for people over the age of 65, but you might be surprised to learn how many discount programs apply to people aged 50, 55, or 60 as well.
Planning on taking your loved one or friend out for lunch, dinner, or a cup of coffee? Check out the list of nationwide establishments that offer discounts. And don’t be shy about asking if your local eateries and stores honor senior citizens this way, too.
2. Preserve Their Stories
If you are an NPR listener, you’ve probably heard an episode of StoryCorps — a unique project dedicated to chronicling the stories of people across the country.
The StoryCorps team travels the country in specially modified Airstream trailers to record Americans interviewing their family members, close friends, mentors, and others. But you don’t have to wait for them to visit your city; it’s an easy DIY project.
Why not interview the senior citizen in your life? It’s a wonderful way not only to record their experience for posterity, but you may learn things about them you never knew before.
3. Learn Something New From Them
It’s a cliche that all senior citizens sit around knitting or crocheting, but chances are that your loved one does have a hobby, pursuit, or pastime that they’d love to teach you. It could be a craft, a card game, a dance, or a useful skill — how to tie a bow tie, how to parallel park, etc.
You might not even have known what skills and talents they have — which means you get to learn something new about them, bringing you closer together. Regardless, it will mean the world to them to pass on their knowledge and expertise.
4. Get Into the Kitchen
Does your grandmother or great-aunt have a recipe that’s gained fame within your extended family? Maybe you have wonderful childhood memories of gathering together every Sunday for Uncle Joey’s meatballs and sauce. Perhaps Gran made every birthday even more special by baking your favorite banana-nut cake with cream cheese frosting.
It’s a good idea to make sure that these recipes are written down somewhere for you, your siblings, your cousins, and anyone else who might want to carry on the culinary tradition. Better yet, ask if you can shadow your elder in the kitchen as they prepare that secret five-alarm chili recipe or the chestnut stuffing that graces your family’s Thanksgiving table.
There is something truly special about preparing a delicious meal with your relatives.
5. Look at Old Photos Together
Gather up all the old family photos you have and settle in for a wonderful afternoon of reminiscing. Your senior citizen relative or friend will be delighted to have someone to share all of their memories and recollections with! At the same time, you can fill out your knowledge of your ancestry and family history.
Make sure to write down any details your loved one shares — names, dates, places — either on the back of the photo itself or on a sticky note that you can affix to the photo. Better yet, make an album or scrapbook to keep everything organized and easy to look through.
Another idea is to digitize all the old photos and film. This might not be a project to do together, but after it’s all finished be sure to share the results with your loved one and the rest of the family!
6. Help Them Write Down Their Legacy
A person doesn’t get to be 65, 70, or older without learning a few valuable lessons along the way. Help your relative share their knowledge so that it can be a legacy for future generations.
Take notes, or even type up the document as you’re sitting and talking. Ask them what advice they have for living a happy life, creating a successful marriage, raising children, or staying healthy.
You might not want to think about the fact that sooner or later, your loved one is going to pass on, but it’s good to keep perspective — and to stop procrastinating when it comes to chronicling their legacy. The truth is that you never know when a senior will succumb to physical health issues or a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
7. Just Spend Time with Them
While all of these projects are enjoyable, remember that the most important way to celebrate Senior Citizens Day with a loved one is simply to spend time together. It doesn’t much matter what you do together. Share a meal, go out for a cup of coffee, play some games, go for a drive, sit outside in the sunshine, watch a movie, ask them about their life, or just relax and chat.
The fact that someone cares enough to clear their schedule and devote a few hours to spending time together will doubtless mean the world to your loved one.
Final Thoughts About Senior Citizens Day
Particularly if your 65+ relative or friend lives alone, check up on them regularly. Make sure that they are eating well, staying as active as their physical health permits, taking any necessary medication, and getting adequate sleep.
Monitoring their overall wellbeing is probably something you already regularly do, but it’s smart to double-check that they are caring for themselves and doing all right.
Then, when Senior Citizens Day rolls around, you can devote your time and energy to truly celebrating your loved one with fun and meaningful activities!
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