In light of the COVID-19 crisis, senior living communities have come to feel more like a family than ever before. With limited opportunities to leave or visit their actual family, seniors are relying on each other and the staff to help brighten their day and break up the monotony of being isolated from the outside world. As we head into August, we celebrate National Family Fun Month. Although no one really knows the origins, it’s the perfect excuse to reminisce about family memories and revisit family traditions.
There are plenty of reminiscing opportunities this month, so we divided the first four sections into separate categories. Feature one topic a week as a group or during one-on-ones. Keep it casual or serve lemonade or iced tea.
CHILDHOOD FAMILY REMINISCENCE – Tell us about your family growing up. Where did you live? How many siblings do you have? Did you have a favorite sibling and why? What did your childhood home look like? Describe your room, did you have to share it with anyone? What do you remember most about your childhood? What were some of your favorite summer activities as a child? What do you remember about your mom and dad? Can you describe their personalities or appearances? What sort of jobs or responsibilities did they have? Who were some of your closest childhood friends?
RAISING CHILDREN REMINISCENCE – What was it like to raise your own family? How many children did you have and what were the age gaps between? Was it easier to raise a girl or a boy and why? What was your favorite age or age-range of your children? How did you handle discipline? What do your children do today? Are you surprised about their career paths; why? What’s your favorite memory of each child? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? What advice would you give a young parent just starting their family?
FAMILY VACATION MEMORIES – What were some of your favorite family vacations? How old were you at the time? Where did your family usually go on vacation? Did you have a family vacation home or favorite spot you visited regularly, or did you travel around? What was your least favorite vacation and why? Do you remember any hiccups during vacations, such as flat tires or getting lost? How did you entertain yourself while traveling? When you hear the word “vacation,” what’s the first few memories that come to mind?
FAMILY TRADITIONS REMINISCENCE – How did you celebrate birthdays and holidays as a child? Did you carry on any of these traditions with your own family? Which traditions did you choose to stop or replace with something else? Tell us about the family traditions that mean the most to you. Did your spouse have any new or strange family traditions that grew on you over time? What foods were involved in your family traditions?
FAMILY HEIRLOOMS SHOW & TELL – Invite members to share their family heirlooms in a group setting. Ask members to bring their heirloom to share or take a photo of it prior to the activity. Share the photo on a projector screen while each member shares about their heirloom. Where did it originate? How did they become owners? What makes it special? Alternatively, take a photo and ask members to write a brief description about the heirloom. Then, display photos with their description on a bulletin board or hallway that members can view at their own convenience. Here’s one idea for a family tree: http://sometimes-homemade.com/framed-family-tree/
HEIRLOOM RECIPE BOOK – Encourage members to gather their favorite family recipes and create a facility heirloom recipe book. Purchase folders with fasteners for each participant. Provide a variety of 8½ x 11-inch scrapbook paper and/or recipe notecards. Prior to the activity, use a three-hole punch to punch holes in one side of the scrapbook paper so that it aligns to the fasteners in the folder. Instruct participants to either rewrite the recipe on the recipe notecard or select a scrapbook paper to glue the recipe on. Participants that rewrite their recipe will then glue the notecard on their scrapbook page. Provide other fun cooking or baking-related stickers that participants can use to personalize their recipe page. Use the book during future cooking classes or demonstrations.
FAMILY REUNION SOCIAL – Plan an all-facility family reunion social that evokes memories of family reunions for your group. Instead of gathering in one location, host mini reunions in facility sections or in outdoor locations of your facility. Create a buffet of individually-packaged foods, such as single-serving chips, pretzels, granola bars, or cookies. Find a family reunion trivia game online and adapt it for your group. Reminisce about family reunions. Invite an entertainer to perform outdoors and encourage members to enjoy the music from their balconies.
FAMILY FUN FRIDAYS – As your facility begins to reopen, consider hosting safe, social distancing visits for members and their families. Section off an area of the parking lot and create visiting zones. Place a chair for a member to sit on in each visiting zone and allow families to visit while they remain in their cars. Encourage members and their families to wear masks as appropriate. Require reservations to manage demand.
GAME NIGHT – Many families enjoy a weekly game night. Host weekly game nights after dinner. Try games such as Charades, Bingo, Would You Rather, or other trivia games that don’t require a physical board game. Encourage members to share stories about games they used to play with their families.
LEAVING A LEGACY – Provide notebooks for members and invite them to journal their thoughts on leaving a legacy. Prompt them with a few questions, such as these: How will the world be different because of my life? Who had the greatest impact on me and who do I think I had the greatest impact on? What do I want my children and grandchildren to know about me that I haven’t yet shared with them? Alternatively, do this as a small group activity, encouraging members to share with one another.
FAMILY MOVIES – August is the perfect month to feature your favorite films about families. Invite members to stay cool indoors by featuring matinee movies, such as Mary Poppins Returns, Coco, or The Sound of Music. For a shorter option, consider playing an episode each day of your group’s favorite family TV sitcom.
FAMILY LEGACY TRIVIA
Name the title of the book, movie, television show, or play that depicts the life of a family.
- In this dysfunctional family fairy tale you find an evil stepmother, a handsome prince, and a lost slipper. Cinderella
- The story of this classic book follows the four March sisters of New England, from childhood through adulthood during the 1800s. Little Women
- Making its debut in 1959, this Broadway play written by Lorraine Hansberry follows the ups and downs of a family living in South Chicago as they work toward improving their financial circumstances after the death of their father. A Raisin in the Sun
- Written by Jane Austen, this classic book deals with issues of manners, upbringing, and marriage through the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Pride and Prejudice
- This Broadway musical – based on a classic comic strip – features an eleven-year-old orphan singing songs like “Tomorrow” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” Annie
- This American sitcom television series follows an African-American family as they move from a working-class section of Queens into a luxurious apartment building in the Upper East Side of New York. The Jeffersons
- This 1967 comedy-drama film was one of the first films of the time to portray an interracial marriage in a positive light. It tells of a young woman who brings home her new fiancé to meet her parents. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
- This book by Laura Ingalls Wilder offers a unique view of a family during American pioneer days. Little House on the Prairie.
- This television series follows the life and trials of a large family in the Virginia mountains during the Depression. Every episode closed with the words, “Goodnight, John Boy.” The Waltons
- In this 1990s sitcom starring Will Smith, a teenager from Philadelphia is sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in their mansion in California, in order to help him stay out of trouble. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
FAMILY LEGACY THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” ~ Billy Graham
“Family Legacy” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2020 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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