April is the time of year when many of us begin to transition our entertaining and family gatherings to the outdoors. Having adjusted to the time change and the lengthening days, people in this part of the world feel the call of the wild – or at least the patio or deck – for spending time with family and friends and celebrating holidays or graduations.
Many of our older loved ones also look forward to this time of year for many of the same reasons. In addition to appreciating the greater mobility that comes with the end of a long and dark winter, the warmth of the sun or the coolness of a gentle breeze are feelings we all enjoy.
Still, whether you’re hosting a graduation party, holiday celebration or just a casual weeknight dinner, there are a few extra considerations when senior members of the family are joining in on the fun.
Just for starters, think about your outdoor furniture. No matter how much time and treasure you put into your outdoor living space, chances are the seating is far less sturdy and much harder to get into and out of than your household furnishings. Also consider where and how it’s arranged. While you may enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun on your face, Mother may find the direct sunlight results in glare that makes it harder to recognize faces.
It’s always a good idea to consult with your most senior guests about their seating and sun preferences.
Likewise, even a relatively mobile senior may find the logistics of an outdoor gathering exhausting after a while. Navigating through a swarm of youngsters and an uncooperative storm door to grab a soda can be like running with the bulls. Likewise, bending over to dig through ice and fish a cold one from the cooler can turn refreshment into a chore.
Meanwhile, just being outside for extended periods of time can take a toll. It’s for this very reason that plenty of us notice we sleep well after being outdoors. As we get older, that effect intensifies, so it might be helpful to offer your older guests the opportunity to move their part of the gathering back into the house.
Just don’t leave them in there by themselves. The entire purpose of the family gathering is to be *with* family, so isolating with the television is hardly in the spirit of the occasion. It is still important, though, to be sensitive to whether they have truly reached their physical limits and need a few minutes of quiet. Give them the time they need to gain stamina, and then get them back to where the action is.
Like so many caregiving situations we encounter, family gatherings can be more enjoyable and much less stressful with a little forethought and planning. There are several things we can do to make the event much more fun for everybody and we’d like to hear yours.
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