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Honoring grandparents and the elderly

Gwen StephensonGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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National Grandparent’s Day is observed on the first Sunday after Labor Day, and its purpose is to honor grandparents and older citizens; to give grandparents and the older generation an opportunity to express and show their love for their grandchildren or even adopted grandchildren and to help younger people become aware of the strength, guidance, and information that our senior population can offer.The National Grandparent’s Day celebration originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly people in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren and youth to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents and older friends could provide. In 1973, the Governor of West Virginia proclaimed the holiday statewide. The grassroots effort grew, and in 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed National Grandparents Day a national holiday. This year, Grandparent’s Day is on Sunday, Sept. 9. The National Grandparent’s Day Council, a nonprofit corporation established by descendants of Marian H. McQuade, encourages families to make this day “a family day.” But they also say that all grandparents and elderly people should be honored every day of the year. Schools, churches and senior organizations can plan events any time during the year to honor grandparents/seniors in whichever way is most appropriate for their needs. Some families have small celebrations; others plan family reunions. The key is to cultivate intergenerational activities.

The Council offers these family recommendations for making National Grandparents Day or any special event special: Board games that are easily played by young and old add enjoyment to family gatherings and enhance “intergenerational interaction.” Create an opportunity for story-telling, allowing grandparents to relate stories of their past, enlightening children about “the good ol’ days.” Help children and/or grandchildren to identify and date all photos in old family albums. Many happy memories can be derived, and the activity provides a time to discover one’s roots and learn patience, understanding and appreciation for the elderly. A grandparents day celebration in any form is a perfect time to enhance communication between the generations.

Provide an opportunity for a grandparent to pass down a special skill, hobby, or interest. Whether it is preparing a beloved family recipe, quilting, genealogy, painting, or tips for making the garden’s crops so plentiful, it should be shared with family members. It could also be special family traditions, music, songs, celebrations, or even beliefs. Grandparents are a wealth of information, rich in history, but sometimes the young don’t ask enough questions. Remember, the knowledge helps to preserve the heritage that makes the family so very special. Involve grandparents in daily activities and events as much as practical and of interest. Grandparents/seniors offer very special relationships with their grandchildren or youth and a close relationship can forge a very special bond that spans the age differences and times. Remember those who are in nursing homes and are unable to be with their families. Grandparents typically bestow a loving spirit of love and respect, and gratitude should be extended beginning with our very youngest generations. Remember others’ grandparents in nursing homes who are unable to be with their families or, sadly enough, have no families. Even simple acknowledgements such as a card or a phone call can brighten the day of a senior.



Please take time to honor these important people on Grandparent’s Day – and all year long!Gwen Stephenson is the Colorado Mountain College Director of Senior Programs of Garfield County.


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