When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, there are usually two types of people: those who can’t wait to get started, and those who think, “Ugh. What’s the point?” But the funny thing is, even if you don’t want to make any for yourself, it can sometimes be a treat to help others with them. And since older adults have goals just like everyone else, why not sit down with them and make some New Year’s resolutions with your loved one to ring in 2016? New Year’s resolutions for seniors can feel tricky at times — health issues like dementia and depression complicate life for many older adults. But if you just ask, you may find that your loved one is already full of ideas about how they’d like to make next year great. And if you find yourself at a loss for ideas, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite resolutions for older adults (and for anyone, really, no matter your age!).
I Resolve to Take Care of Myself
Without a regular job to attend or a family to take care of, it can be easy to let the little things slide. Your loved one may have stopped cleaning the house as well as they used to, or maybe they’ve let personal grooming fall by the wayside. They may even forget to book doctors’ appointments and take necessary medications. Of course, if health issues like dementia affect their inability to take care of themselves, you need to approach the subject with delicacy — this may not be the right resolution for every older adult. But even when declining health has taken effect, you can help the older adult in your life take better care of themselves with a home care aide or visiting nurse. These are professional individuals who can perform light chores, provide medication management, and more.
I Resolve to Ask for Help When I Need It
Older adults today are part of a stalwart, independent generation that prides itself on the ability to “go it alone.”[1. “When Aging Parents Won’t Receive Help Graciously,” AARP, July 2, 2013, https://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-07-2013/caregiving-aging-parents-jacobs.html.] Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best attitude if the older adult’s physical or mental capabilities are decreasing. Take some time to explain to them (again, delicately!) that there’s no shame in accepting the help they so willingly provided for others for years. If they’re agreeable, and family members or others are not available to help, a home care aide can assist with transportation, cooking, and more.
I Resolve to Have Realistic Expectations for Myself and Those Around Me
Similar to asking for help, some older adults may be reluctant to admit to their loss of physical mobility. They may insist they’re able to do things, such as driving or taking care of the house, even when it’s clear that the situation has become unsafe. Encourage your loved one to take a realistic look at what they can accomplish. Likewise, they may need to realize you can’t spend every weekend visiting or helping them around the house, and that outside assistance may be needed to fill in the gaps.
I Resolve to Keep in Touch with Friends and Loved Ones
After the last of the holiday cards have been written, the presents wrapped, and the phone calls ended, it’s easy to lose touch with people we care about. Older adults can have an especially hard time with this. If their immediate family isn’t close by, or they don’t have transportation to see people regularly, they can quickly become isolated. [2. “Social Isolation May Raise Death Risk for Elderly,” Web MD, March 25, 2013, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20130325/isolation-loneliness-may-raise-death-risk-for-elderly.] Help your loved one to socialize by writing letters and cards together throughout the year. Or, you can teach them to use a computer, social media, or video chat as a means to connect with the people they care about (but be prepared to help them with it more than once!).
I Resolve to Find One New Way to Learn and Grow
Growing older is no reason to stop growing completely! You might be surprised at the number of older adults who enjoy learning new languages, finding new hobbies, and volunteering to give back to their communities. In particular, volunteering can be a great way for older adults to pass wisdom and experience onto future generations while reminding them that they can still be useful to society in many ways. Help your loved one take advantage of these opportunities in your area with social day programs.
New Year’s Resolutions for Seniors Are a Gift That Keeps Giving
If you help make New Year’s resolutions for seniors, you may find it’s a gift in more ways than one. First, it helps to motivate your loved one to work on things that are important to them, achieve things they might not have otherwise, and provide them direction in a time of life that can sometimes feel aimless. It can also help ease burdens on you as a caregiver, as resolutions can help older adults maintain productivity and emotional health. Besides these great benefits, it might even motivate you to take a look at your own life and identify some of goals you want to work on. So why not take a moment now to write down some New Year’s resolutions?
If you’re unsure how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.