Monday, February 06, 2006

Encouraging the Elderly To Pursue A Hobby

Growing older can be tough for some people. They may want to spend their time doing the activities they once loved but find that they cannot. Other older people, like my grandparents, retired to find themselves with too much time on their hands. They no long had children for whom to care, and they no longer had the grind of the 9 to 5 to keep them busy everyday. If you have someone in your family like that, you may want to get them involved in a new hobby but be unsure how to go about it.

First, do not push. Some people are not looking for new hobbies, and your incessant demands that they find a new one will get wearing quickly. Simply invite them along for your hobbies. If your family loves to watch your local high school tennis team, ask Grandma to come with you. If you enjoy making furniture, ask Grandpa if he wants to hang out in your shop with you. It just may be that he picks up a tool and gets started, too.

You also can help Grandma or Grandpa (or Great Aunt Sally, for that matter) know how much you enjoy your hobby. While you should not continue to drone on, you can explain that you feel so great after you have watched a momma robin build her new nest. Talk about why you love your hobby or even how you got interested in it. You may find that the elderly person in your life will be more interested in getting involved if he or she feels that you were once a novice, too.

Offer to help out anytime you are asked. Be sure to offer your supplies, of course. Someone will not want to invest in something that may not be enjoyable. Also if the person you are trying to interest in the hobby displays any desire to work on it at all, be sure that you get in on helping out right now.

One way to get your older relative involved in a hobby activity is through volunteering. Remember that volunteering itself is a hobby. Some people get great pleasure out of helping other people. There are opportunities that are perfect for older people, and you can help your older friend or relative get involved. One of the least-discussed programs is offered through elementary or primary schools. Many of them have the need for people to come in to read to students or to have students read to them. Call the principal up and ask if that program is available. If it is, that may be something that your older relative can enjoy. It will become a weekly part of life and will help enrich the lives of your relative as well as the children with whom he or she comes in contact.

Take into account the activities that the person in question enjoyed before. If your Uncle George used to love taking pictures at family gatherings, maybe he wants to do that now with a little more practice. Encourage him by getting new photo equipment or by pointing out how everyone loved the pictures he took at all of the children's birthday parties.

Be willing to take part in the hobby, too. Many older people want to share their stories. Today's elderly generation lived through a world war, a depression, and many other trying times. They have amazing stories to tell. Some of them may feel that no one cares while others may feel that they do not have the time, energy, or ability to write down these stories. Offer to share with them your time. Take down the information and turn it into a usable format for the whole family.

Be sure that you are not judgmental about the person's decision to pursue a hobby even if you think that it is not a good idea. Encourage any type of activity, remembering that many elderly people are trying to determine how they will survive now that they are not working everyday. Many of them also are trying to discover what they want to do, so stay positive. Being supportive is the best gift you can give to someone you love.

By Julia Mercer

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