Weddings…Showers…Graduations…OH MY!

Creating a new scale is one of our most challenging (aka crushing) aging adjustments.


Various factors impact our ability to “do what we used to.”  However, accommodations can usually be made for many areas of need.  As we fly head-first into graduation and wedding season (how is it already May?), let’s talk about the 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 loved ones can only attend some of the events they are invited to, regardless of whether they’re considered significant occasions.  How do we decide?  Will their presence, or lack thereof, at an event significantly impact others?

Apart from triaging the event and finding its place in the order of importance, other considerations include location, ease of access, distance to travel, event length, exposure, energy demand, mental/emotional bandwidth, and social demands.  When deciding what events “cut the mustard” in prioritizing attendance for your loved ones, start by asking 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?

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 ten other toddlers might not be as essential.

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 nothing had to change, even in frail and limited-capacity conditions.  Unfortunately, that’s not reality.  However, it is possible to modify and customize the experience for our loved ones who fit into this category.

Most of the time, it’s not “either / or,” but rather, “both / and.”  We can know what limitations exist and the burning desire of the senior in question.  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 the same as 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.  More often than you would imagine, the most geographically and emotionally distant person has the loudest voice and opinion.  In addition, this well-meaning relative may be outside the loop regarding what’s really going on with their 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 Gram to her great-granddaughter’s wedding might indeed be possible.  Break down the outing's components into manageable chunks.  Ask others in similar situations 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.