Have you ever stopped to notice how youth obsessed our popular culture is? Walk down any high street and you’ll see a market aimed almost entirely at the young. Store windows sporting the latest, youngest and trendiest clothes, shoe stores packed with the sickest sneakers, and billboards displaying youthful images of airbrushed perfection. It’s enough to make anyone over the age of 25 feel positively ancient. In this juvenescence obsessed culture, where youth and beauty seem to be the only things worth valuing, it makes one think about their relationship with the seniors in their lives like our grandparents. Those patient, caring, forgiving, wise and infinitely loving men and women at whose knee were formed some of our most treasured childhood memories. Society may have given up on them, since they aren’t as impressionable or laissez faire with their disposable income as that all important 18-24 year old demographic that marketing departments obsess over, but we certainly have not. Now, more than ever it’s important that we don’t leave it until the next Christmas or birthday to show them just how much we love, value and respect them.

Image by Flickr


The isolation of the elderly


As we grow up and leave the nest, our parents and grandparents are proud of us and happy to see us spread our wings, but this does not detract from the isolation and loneliness that can set in as we they reach old age. Senior isolation is an oft-overlooked and extremely worrying fact of life for many of our grandparents, especially if they no longer have their spouse with them. Isolation is in fact one of the greatest health risks that our seniors face, having a profoundly negative impact on their mental health and even contributing to their mortality risk. It can also exacerbate cognitive decline and increase their risk of dementia.


As busy as our lives are and as punishing as our schedules can be, it’s important that we make an effort to engage with our grandparents in thoughtful ways and show them just how much we love them. Of course, a phone call is always a great way to catch up, but every now and then we might get the urge to do something extra special. There has been huge technological developments in the hearing aid devices that are available. 


Here are some thoughtful ideas that you can bust out for pretty much any occasion, or just out of the blue, They’re all relatively inexpensive and while some may take some time and effort to put together, the impact they’ll have on the recipients is immeasurable.


Write a letter


Correspondence is fast becoming a lost art, but most of us have grandparents for whom it’s infinitely preferable to the impersonality of an email or a text message. Everyone loves getting something in the mail that isn’t a bill or junk mail. A letter is such a small and inexpensive gift, but it’s one that brings joy to its recipients. We tend to think much more about what we’re writing when we write longhand as opposed to typing, and a letter can be reread and cherished. Letters are treated with a little more reverence than our more disposable texts. For something extra special, invest in some beautiful stationery that will lend a sense of personality and uniqueness to your letter.


Set up a cellphone plan for them


Make no mistake, you won’t be the first to try and set your grandparent(s) up with a cell phone. Since they came into regular circulation in the late ‘90s they’ll likely have been given several, each sleeker, sexier, shinier and more packed with features than the last. Unfortunately, from your grandparents’ point of view, they’ve also gotten more obtuse and incomprehensible. While you may find the interface of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy easy and intuitive, these feature-packed smartphones may have too many bells and whistles for your grandparents.


That said, you and they would both benefit from the extra connectivity that would come with a cell phone. Fortunately, with new packages especially for seniors it’s easier than ever to find a senior cell plan. Setting a plan up for them will ensure that they get the service they need without any unnecessary extras. In terms of handsets, look no further than Excellus communications’ have created Snapfon; a completely senior friendly cell phone that’s easy to use and built with the needs of seniors in mind. The buttons are large and accessible, the keypad has a speaking option, the menus are easy to navigate and it’s equipped with a high powered LED flashlight. If hearing is an issue for your grandparent(s), it has an enhanced volume mode and hearing aid compatibility. For added peace of mind it has an emergency button on the back that’s easy to spot and accessible. When held down for 5 seconds, this button emits an SOS emergency alert with 24 hour monitoring incorporated into the plan.

Image by Flickr


Give them a journal


This is kind of a cheat, as it would be as much a gift for you and your family as for them, but we’ve already discussed the merits of gifting a journal to a beloved grandparent. We all know that our grandparents are an infinite well of wisdom and stories, and giving them a journal is a great way to commit their thoughts, reflections, memories and stories to the ages. This way, you’ll be able to share in their life’s journey and even share their story with your own kids.


Digitize their photos


If you love poring over old photos with your grandparents but don’t relish the idea of them rummaging through their old stuff to get to the photo albums stored at the bottoms of their cupboards and wardrobes, why not give them the gift of all their photos in one place? Spend a day amassing all of their old photos and digitize them using an app like Heirloom. This will prevent them from needing to while away the hours rummaging around for their old photos. Combined with a digital photo frame this will give them the gift of being able to access their treasured memories in just a few seconds.


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