Aberdeen: Weddings…Showers…Graduations…OH MY!


How do you choose?  What events “cut the mustard” in prioritizing attendance for your aging loved one?  What factors do you consider: exposure, energy demand, mental/emotional bandwidth, distance, and travel ... or, as I like to say, “How much chaos can you handle?”

Various factors impact the ability to “do what we used to.”

One of our most challenging (aka crushing) aging adjustments is creating a new scale.  Given that, how do we decide what, when, where, and how as a response to social opportunities for our seniors who may have considerations of physical, cognitive, or emotional limitations?

The hard reality might be that our elders with special considerations might only be able to attend some events, significant or not, that they are invited to and want to attend. How do we decide?  Will their attendance at an event have a significant impact on others?

For example, a grandchild’s wedding is likely worth the effort.  Creating memories for everyone in the family, and having this dearly loved one present, will have a lifetime of benefits. However, attending their 8th great grandson’s second birthday with 10 other toddlers might not be as essential.

Other considerations, apart from triaging the event and finding its place in the order of importance, include location, ease of access, distance to travel, event length, and social demands.  Accommodations can be made for many areas of need; we just need to ask the right questions:

  • Is there a quiet table in the corner, away from the fray?
  • Can we sit near the restrooms?
  • Can we hold this event near our elder’s home to reduce travel?
  • Can we participate in some, but not all, of the event? What part works best?

Sometimes, family and friends not in regular contact with our compromised senior don’t get the “full picture” of what’s happening.

We hear well-meaning sentiments like “it won’t be the same without him being there,” which may be absolutely true. It would be wonderful if, even in frail and limited capacity conditions, nothing had to change.  But, unfortunately, that’s not reality.  It is, however, possible to modify and customize the experience for our loved ones fitting into this category.

Most of the time, it’s not “either / or” but rather “both / and.”  We can know what limitations exist and what the burning desire of the senior in question is.  While exploring the opportunities to make modifications and accommodations to the event and trying to get most of the family on the same page, it’s far more likely that we can continue to keep Gram, Gramp, or whoever engaged with those they love.  Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • We can’t stay for the weekend, but we’d love to come up for the afternoon.
  • Gram can’t tolerate an event with so much going on. Could you visit her at home and show her the video and pictures?
  • Large groups confuse and sometimes agitate Grandpa. If we could find a quiet spot where he is a bit sheltered from “the crowd,” he would be much more comfortable.
  • I know it’s not like having her there, but could we Zoom so she can participate that way?

What if “Brother Bossy Pants” flies in from Hong Kong, decides he knows best, and tries to throw a monkey wrench into the plans?

Yikes.  No, quick, answer to that.  This is more often the case than you would imagine that the most geographically and/or emotionally distant person has the loudest voice and the most powerful opinion.  In addition, this well-meaning relative may be outside the loop regarding what’s really going on with the senior family member.  When you don’t see the decline and changes regularly, it’s easier to deny they are happening. Also, don’t forget the “show off” nature of elders in this position.  The peacock feathers come out and can even fool the most vigilant observers.

In summary, be willing to think outside the box.  Getting Gramp to the 4th of July parade in MBTS might indeed be possible. Break down the components of the outing into manageable chunks.  Ask others how they’ve done it.  Work as a team.  Ask for help.

Managing the situation will allow your loved one to have a meaningful experience. If they lugged you around as a child, complete with all you needed, remember, that wasn’t a piece of cake.  Think of it as returning the favor.  Set a good example to the younger generations of how to intentionally and tenderly take good care of our elders with special consideration.

One day… this will be us.

showers, 4th of july, energy demand, gramp, aberdeen