Having meaningful relationships is a critical part of maintaining physical and emotional health later in life. Not surprisingly, the familial bond is one of the most important.
Even after your loved one has moved into a retirement community, they still run the risk of loneliness and social isolation – pervasive issues among the senior community that can be mitigated by regular contact with friends and family.
Physical distance may occasionally pose a problem, in which case phone calls, letters, and emails assume a bigger role, but there are multiple reasons why you should make every effort to visit your elderly parents or grandparents as often as you can.
Benefits to Visiting Seniors
Healthy, strong relationships are mutually beneficial for everyone involved, but they require maintenance. As your parents age and potentially struggle with mobility or driving, you can step in and make the effort to visit them at their retirement campus.
1. Boosts Cognitive Health and Ward of Loneliness
Spending time with your parents or grandparents has significant benefits to their mental, emotional and physical health. Recent studies have connected social isolation and loneliness with cognitive decline, increased rates of infection and even mortality. Spending time with your loved ones boosts their social and emotional engagement and wards off loneliness.
2. Improves Memory Recall
Conversations, photos, home videos, and music can prompt nostalgia that reminds you and your loved ones of particularly happy or poignant memories, which is especially beneficial to those struggling with dementia or memory loss. Additionally, you have an opportunity to create new memories through shared experiences, from holiday parties and outings to activities as simple as taking a stroll or eating together.
3. Ensures They Are Well Cared For
Making in-person visits also allows you to take stock of your loved one’s living situation and make sure they are happy and healthy, which can help prevent elder abuse. Additionally, you can gauge how they are coping with a chronic illness, if they need encouragement with nutrition and fitness, or if they could use extra help with finances, medications, or daily tasks.
4. Shows You Care
Perhaps most importantly, a visit communicates how much you love and care about someone. It demonstrates that you will put forth time and effort to stay connected. Giving someone your physical presence is often the most meaningful thing you can do for them.
However, seniors are not the only ones who benefit from these visits. It’s equally important for family members, including grandchildren, to foster valuable relationships with grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Not only does it help deter your own loneliness, but it allows you to create lasting memories that will be increasingly meaningful later in life.
For young family members, they can hear their grandparents’ stories, learn about their history and heritage, and get to know someone who was important in your life.
Making Your Visits Meaningful
When you go to visit your family member – mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa – there are numerous ways you can increase the impact of the visit.
You take them a special gift for a holiday or birthday, or even something simple but special, like a homemade treat unique to your family cookbook. If you’re visiting with your own kids, it could be an opportune time to review an old photo album or childhood mementos together and share stories.
The most important aspect of your visit is how you spend the time, which can vary based on your loved one’s preferences and abilities. They may enjoy getting off campus for a day and visiting a local Federal Way attraction or taking a scenic drive to a Washington landmark. You can also share a meal together, play a board game, or take a walk on the grounds. Village Green Retirement Campus has numerous amenities and communal areas, including libraries, cozy parlors, and juice bars, where you can gather with family and friends.
If you parent or grandparent is learning a new hobby, they might enjoy having you try it out with them, which can be a bonding experience for both of you. It is also natural for seniors to want to feel relevant and important, which means asking for their opinions, sharing what is going on in your life, or discussing a topic you are both interested in. You are never too old for some advice or guidance from your parents, and open communication is critical for maintaining healthy relationships.
Visitation Guidelines at Village Green
Before you plan a visit to your family member, you should be aware of the visitation rules at their particular senior living community.
Most retirement facilities, such as Village Green, are aware of how important it is for residents to stay in touch with their families and they do what they can to facilitate and support visitation. However, there is a process that must be followed to help preserve the safety, security and comfort of all residents.
When you get to Village Green, you should check in so they are aware of your presence on the campus. They can also fill you in on the schedule of meals and programs for that day. At Village Green, families are encouraged to share meals with residents. Throughout the year, the retirement community hosts brunches, lunches, and special events to which family and friends are invited.
Village Green encourages family members to be involved in their loved one’s care and they are happy to answer questions and address any concerns you may have regarding visitation or staying in contact with your family member.
Here is some more information about some frequently asked questions we get as people are choosing what retirement community to move into:
When are visitors allowed?
While you obviously don’t want to cruise in at midnight on a loud motorcycle, most quality senior living campuses have an open door policy, more or less. Living independently is the biggest draw for senior living homes, so there shouldn’t be too many restrictions on who can visit and when.
Can I spend the night? How about grandchildren?
Different senior living communities have different policies on whether or not they allow overnight guests. Village Green does allow overnight guests. Simply check in at the front desk and let them know you will be having guests stay the night.
Are pets allowed to visit?
If you’re a pet owner, you already know how much joy that unconditional love can bring. If your parent is fond of your dog, the occasional visit from him would be most welcome. Check on the facility’s animal policy; at the very least, you should be able to bring your pet for a visit with your parent on the grounds, if not inside. Some retirement living homes allow residents to have their own pets, and some have faculty pets for all to enjoy. Village Green is a pet friendly campus.
Can I join my elderly loved one for lunch or dinner?
You might take it for granted that you would be able to dine with your loved one at a retirement campus, but before moving in you should still ask. You should be able to share a meal in the dining room with your parent and his or her friends whenever your schedule allows, but some places have restrictions. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, take your parent to the dining room for lunch or dinner and mingle with the residents. This is the perfect opportunity to get the “inside scoop” on the pros and cons of everyday living at your possible home of choice.
The bottom line is this: a senior living community should allow your parent to continue their social interaction with friends and family without major changes. Village Green encourages families to enjoy a meal and a visit with their loved ones. Once again, please let the front desk know that you will be having guests so they can plan accordingly. For large group meals in the private dining room, we require advanced notice.
“6 Reasons Why Visiting Loved Ones Keeps Seniors Happy and Young.” A Place For Mom blog. Accessed online at https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/2013-12-10-reasons-for-visiting-loved-ones/
“Close Friends and Loving Relationships Keep the Brain Strong.” AARP blog post. Accessed online at https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2017/loving-relationships-and-brain-health.html
“Family & Friends are Among the Most Common Visitors.” AssistedLivingFacilities.org. Accessed online at https://www.assistedlivingfacilities.org/resources/resident-activities/visitors/