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Visiting Older Adult Friends and Family Members: Making the Most of the Time

by Published On: Sep 05, 2012

Visiting older adults can be both deeply rewarding and surprisingly challenging. The following ideas are intended to help enrich time spent with friends and loved ones.  

In general, when planning time together, always think about your loved one’s strengths and interests. For example, looking at pictures isn’t a good activity for someone with low-vision, but listening to music or a book on tape together might be engaging and enjoyable for everyone.  

Bring a Project  

Everyday projects like sorting family pictures, clipping coupons or finding recipes for an upcoming event can provide an engaging activity while prompting reminiscence.  

Create Art Together  

Art making like singing, writing poems, painting or drawing is usually fun for people of all ages. TimeSlips storytelling web site has photo prompts for writing collaborative stories. While the improvisational storytelling technique was developed specifically for older adults living with dementia, the process is appropriate for anyone—regardless of cognitive status.  

Ask Open Ended Questions  

Wide open language that illustrates your interest and curiosity prompts dialogue rather than just short responses.  Try using questions like these:  

  • What happened this week?  
  • What do you like about this time of year?  
  • Tell me about (insert a time, a place, a person). 

Bring Kids and Pets  

There’s plenty of research to support the value of both intergenerational connections and time with animals. If your family member is living in a long-term care community, find out when the staff recommends bringing children or pets for a visit and if there are any limitations on either type of visit.  

Savor the Good Moments  

Age and illness-related changes in those we love can be difficult to encounter. Be mindful of timing when scheduling your visits.  You may need to experiment to determine what time of day is best for both you and your loved one. 

Be gentle with yourself and remember the quality of your visits will likely ebb and flow based on a host of variables. But, always aim to savor the good moments.  


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