Most of today’s older adults grew up learning to value family, friends, and community. They experienced the importance of an extended family and a network of friends in hard times such as the Great Depression or World War II. February is a good time to celebrate the gift of friendships with your group. Encourage participants to share remembrances of their best friends through the years. Ask: What is a friend? How can you be a good friend? How are friends different from family? Did you have friends from all walks of life? What is the longest friendship you ever had?
Enrich your sessions with some songs about friends. Sing or listen to favorites such as “Make New Friends,” “Getting to Know You,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” or “Friendship.” Ask: How have your friends influenced your life? Talk about the difference in friendships between men and women. Pass around pictures of women together: bridge club, homemakers club, quilting bee, Mah-jongg. Add photos of men together: clubs like Elks, Rotary; sports; playing poker or pool. Share recollections of favorite times with friends.
Here are more activities to enjoy with your group during the month.
- Name words that are synonyms for friends, e.g., pal, mate, buddy, chum, partner, comrade.
- Ask participants to share remembrances of these kinds of friends: best friend, childhood friend, long-distance friend, good friend, old/new friend, true friend, “fair-weather friend,” famous friend, girlfriend/boyfriend.
- Talk about the value of intergenerational friends. Invite a troop of Girl Scouts to make friendship bracelets with your group.
- Share ways to stay in touch with long-distance friends, e.g., letter writing. Model letter-writing skills for the younger generation and talk about basic letter-writing etiquette from Emily Post.
- Celebrate special friends on Valentine’s Day with some heart-shaped foods-cookies, cakes, or sandwiches.
- Read this quotation about gossip from Will Rogers – “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.” Ask: Can gossip hurt friendships?
- Share some friendship poetry, e.g., poems from Helen Steiner Rice.
- Sing the song “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” and reminisce about your old gang of school friends. Pass around yearbooks and chat about school reunions.
- Ask participants to name some gifts that have become keepsakes that they gave to or received from special friends.
- Invite a guest from a youth-mentoring organization such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America to talk about providing friendship and support to youngsters.
- Share techniques to learn the names of new people. Discuss why names are so important in making friends.
- Write a poem about friendship titled Recipe for Friendship. Invite group members to name all the things that go into making a lasting friendship.
- Ask participants to take on the role of greeting card writer and to design a new friendship card for golden year friends.
- Watch a movie about friendship, such as The Sunshine Boys with Walter Matthau and George Burns, Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell, or a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” picture.
- Read some proverbs about friendship, e.g., “A friend in need is a friend indeed” or “The best of friends must part.” Ask your group members if they agree or disagree with the statements.
- Friends have common interests and share enjoyable activities together. Encourage your group to reminisce about some of their favorite pastimes with friends when they were children and teenagers. Ask: Where did you meet new friends?
- Some of your group may recall meeting new people at church during Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Perhaps they looked forward to family events such as an old-fashioned church potluck where they enjoyed the fellowship from the people in the congregation. Many may remember singing in church with friends and family. Ask: Did you learn old hymns at an early age? Do you have a favorite hymn you love to hear or sing?
- Good friends laugh and have fun together as they enjoy everyday life. Ask your group to describe a favorite get-together with their pals. Some people might recall a night of board games or cards – with a dose of friendly competition! Spark some memories by playing a simple trivia game with your group.
EVERYDAY LIFE TRIVIA QUIZ
Many senior adults have been members of civic groups, social clubs, and volunteer organizations – all good places to make new friends. Ask participants to name some of the organizations. You’re likely to hear the following: Elks, Scouts, Eastern Star, PTA, Jaycees, 4-H, Kiwanis, volunteer fire department, Bible study group, Moose, and more. Ask: What were some of the most positive experiences you had in one of these groups? Do you still maintain friendships with any of the group’s former members?
To trigger memories of old friendships, quiz your group with these trivia questions:
- When little girls join the Brownies, what larger organization are they a part of? Girl Scouts of America
- What is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America? Be Prepared
- What is a barbershop quartet? A four-man harmonic singing group
- Traditionally, what sport is known as a good place where men can play and work business deals? Golf
- What are the Elks, the Moose, the Masons, and the Knights of Columbus? Men’s service clubs
- What do Avon ladies sell? Cosmetics, door to door
- What is a bobby-soxer? Slang for teenage girls in the 1940s and 1950s
- What is a jump rope rhyme? Something recited while jumping rope with friends
- What is a sorority? A club for women on a college or university campus
- In what card game do you look for a straight flush, a full house, and four of a kind? Poker
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
“FRIENDSHIP’S GIFT” written by Sue Hansen. © 2007 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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