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FAMILY REUNION FUN

Hot lazy days, watermelon, swimming holes, and family reunions-these are some of the memories that summer evokes for many older adults. Extended family reunions are a way to gather multiple generations in one setting and to renew family ties. Newer family members can get to know relatives at a large gathering of the clan. Ask your participants: What images come to mind when you think of family reunions-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and distant cousins eating favorite foods, sharing stories, swapping photos and recipes, and playing games? Ask how reunions have changed over the years. Compare a reunion from 50 years ago to one today. Encourage each person in your group to share the most memorable reunion he/she ever attended. What made the event so special or unique? Reminisce about favorite locations for a reunion-perhaps a central location such as a family homestead, beach house, dude ranch, campground, cottage, hotel, or resort. How long were most of their reunions-a day, a weekend, or a full week? Who planned their family reunions? Have any of their reunions focused on a theme?

To trigger memories of family gatherings, plan some of these “mock” family reunion activities with your group. Take a group photo of your “family” and display it on a bulletin board. Encourage participants to bring in a baby picture and ask group members to guess the identity of each one. Pinpoint the hometown of participants on a large map of the U.S. Display group memorabilia such as a family Bible, pocket watch, diary, family cookbook, or ancestral photo. Encourage participants to share the history of their object. Pass out reunion door prizes, e.g., tallest, shortest, most grandchildren.

Reunions often include distant relatives who haven’t met or seen each other in years, so it’s important to plan activities to re-acquaint your extended family. For group fun, organize a get-acquainted scavenger hunt filled with family trivia questions. Gather facts from your participants beforehand. Encourage members to circulate and talk to people to find out information such as the following: Can you find someone who has at least 10 grandchildren? Who has a middle name beginning with M? Who has visited the state of Alaska? Who has parachuted from an airplane? At a designated time, ask the group to share their answers.

One of the cardinal rules for family reunions is to provide an opportunity for all ages to interact. To keep interest high, plan a number of activities to entertain young and old alike. You can, for example, survey your “family” talent pool and host a talent show-complete with an emcee. Enjoy clean jokes, songs, skits about ancestors, instruments, or classic and contemporary dances.

At many reunions, the oldest generation may be asked to bring old records and tapes of music its members enjoyed when they were young. Make time for Grandma to reminisce about some of her favorite movie stars, including Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby.

Create lasting family memories with an old-fashioned sing-along. Sing songs from several generations’ childhood. Here are a few fun songs older relatives can share with younger ones: “The Farmer in the Dell,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “London Bridge,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Family camaraderie is often the best at mealtimes. Sharing favorite dishes with relatives evokes many fond memories. Ask: How do you feed a whole passel of relatives? Bring in old Betty Crocker cookbooks from the 1950s and highlight some recipes for large crowds. Share favorite family recipes passed from generation to generation. For bragging rights, hold a favorite dessert contest!

Bring in a sample of your family tree, depicting the relationship of several generations. Ask your group to list words associated with family, e.g., ancestors, descendants, kin, generation, and heritage. Sing a song related to family ties, such as “I Want a Girl.” Set up a table displaying old historic family photographs. Chat about ways to stay connected with extended family members.

FAMILY QUIZ

How are the different people in your family related? Where do you fit in the family? Challenge your group to name the family connection based on the following assumption: You are one of two married daughters with a father and mother.

  1. Your mother’s sister is your . . . aunt.
  2. Your father’s uncle is your . . . great-uncle.
  3. Your aunt’s son is your  . . . first cousin.
  4. Your sister’s daughter is your . . . niece.
  5. Your grandparent’s mother is your . . . great-grandmother.
  6. Your mother’s aunt is your . . . great-aunt.
  7. Your father’s first cousin is your  . . . first cousin, once removed.
  8. Your niece’s son is your . . . grand-nephew.
  9. Your husband’s mother is your  . . . mother-in-law.
  10. Your cousins’ father is your . . . uncle.

Bring in a sample of your family tree, depicting the relationship of several generations. Ask your group to list words associated with family, e.g., ancestors, descendants, kin, generation, and heritage. Sing a song related to family ties, such as “I Want a Girl.” Set up a table displaying old historic family photographs. Chat about ways to stay connected with extended family members.

THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” ~ William James

“FAMILY REUNION TIME” written by Sue Hansen. © 2005 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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