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Top Five New Year's Resolutions for Seniors and Their Families

Life is full of traditions. Many are handed down through the years, and some are newly created between family and friends. Either way, traditions are part of the colorful fabric that intertwines our lives and holds us together, transcending time and distance. One common tradition this time of year is making New Year’s resolutions, which usually include stopping bad habits or starting good habits.

This tradition is also a great way to stay connected and engaged with those special seniors in your life. By working together with your aging loved ones to put those resolutions into action, you can both maintain the momentum to keep those commitments throughout the year. Providing accountability for each other provides valuable reinforcement, offers the opportunity to stay in touch regularly, and gives you a greater sense of purpose, which is particularly important for seniors and their well-being .

We have compiled a number of interactive New Year’s resolutions designed to keep you connected, in touch, and in tune with each other the entire year:

  • Start a letter journal. Thanks to the Internet, handwritten letters are almost a thing of the past. However, seniors come from an era when writing letters by hand was an important, valued form of etiquette—a more personal way of keeping in touch. Purchase a bound journal, write a letter inside and give it to your loved one. He or she then writes a letter to you and returns the journal. The same can be done with individual letters written back and forth and pasted into the book. The process repeats throughout the year, or until the journal is full. Sharing a letter journal with your loved one is a unique way to strengthen your connection and getting to know each other better. An added perk is the excitement of looking forward to receiving “real” mail. You find yourselves thinking of each other more often and contemplating what bit of news to share in the next letter.
  • Plan to age gracefully. Growing old has advantages as well as a few disadvantages, such as wrinkles, gray hair and changes to our bodies. It is never too late to decide to pursue a healthy lifestyle, which increases the odds of aging gracefully. Plan to exercise often, eat nutritious foods and encourage each other while doing so. If you live near your senior loved one, take walks or participate in a group exercise class together. Even if your senior lives far away, you can take walks during the same time of day and talk on the phone to plan healthy meals and other activities.
  • Share your favorite recipes. Exchanging healthy recipes helps your elderly loved one eat more nutritious meals and gives you the opportunity to ensure she is eating well. As a bonus, your loved one sends you favorite family recipes that have been passed down through the generations.
  • Get tech savvy. A study in 2010 found that seniors are the fastest growing demographic on social networks. If mom and dad do not already have a computer, now is the time to expand their horizons. It might seem a bit intimidating at first, but once they are comfortable, their prowess might surprise you. Communicating and trading pictures via email becomes a snap. Even better, webcams allow “face-to-face” conversations between family members who live far apart. The grandkids can relay their adventures, and everyone gets the pleasure of seeing each other laugh. You also get the chance to observe your loved one and check for signs of good or failing health.
  • Talk about the hard stuff. This resolution is not fun, but it is the most important. While your senior is able, help set the standards of care he or she desires should he or she become incapacitated later. Decide if you will designate a family member or hire a senior care professional to be the primary caregiver. Talking about estate planning and wills, along with other related issues, helps prepare everyone for the inevitable. Discussing these things in advance ensures that your loved one’s wishes are recorded and understood by all.

Making New Year’s resolutions together builds bonds with family and friends. Set your resolution, involve your loved one and help each other reach your goals. Strengthen your relationships and show your love all year long.

1 Jones, Sydney, & Fox, Susannah (2009).  Generations online in 2009.  Retrieved December 6, 2010 from

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1093/generations-online.

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