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With Love and Respect: Birthday Parties and Our Elderly Relatives

Jan 24 2019

  Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

By Jess Walter

More than a third of people over the age of 45 are lonely based on a recently published national survey. When it comes to elderly relatives, the last thing that people want them to feel is lonely; especially when there are celebrations in the coming months. Before throwing a grand gala, there are a lot of different things you need to consider. So, when it comes to party planning, how exactly do you throw a birthday party for an aging relative?

Ask First

First things first: ask if it’s okay. It can be easy to get carried away with planning a fun birthday party, but you have to remember that not everyone likes celebrations. In fact, birthdays can make people feel anxious and depressed, according to Dr. Debra Kissen of Light on Anxiety. This is particularly true for people advanced in their years who aren't necessarily comfortable with reminders of their age. Have a conversation with the future celebrant to find out their feelings about having a birthday party and to respect their decision.

Put Their Preferences First

A study by an established medical resource said that older adults reap a lot of benefits, like increased life span, when they're cared for and surrounded by family. The party you’re planning is a good way to show your elderly loved one how much everyone cares. As much as possible, put their desires above all.  Be creative in picking out themes to suit the celebrant’s age and preferences. Try to find out if they still have keepsakes from their childhood and incorporate them. You can even turn them into the central theme of the party.

Be Calm and Flexible

Always remember that your celebrant is from a generation completely different from your own, so your tastes may clash. If you’re the one paying for the party, you may have your own ideas about what party to throw. You need to nip that in the bud and be flexible. Don’t let your temper flare up; remind yourself why you’re doing this and who it’s for. Be big enough to make room for the desires of the elderly even when it’s on your dime.

Prepare Family Members

A common enough complaint from family members—especially the younger generation—is that elders tend to be hard to get along with. Age has a way of removing decorum filters, so elders tend to say what’s on their mind without considering if it’s appropriate or offensive. Naturally, this can cause friction so it’s best to prepare family members. Putting forth gentle reminders of being understanding can go a long way. If there are some that won’t budge, think about the comfort of the elderly and see if you can trim names from the guest list.

Party planning will always be hectic and full of stress, no matter who you are planning it for. But you must always ask yourself if what’s planned contributes to the well-being of the older, or not, before forging ahead. It is important to not lose sight of the original point of the endeavor: celebrating a loved one.