I recently received a card from my grandparents congratulating me on my college graduation. I wish they could have been there. When I lived in India, I practically lived at my grandparents’ house. They were a part of my everyday life. Today, our conversations are maybe once every few weeks. This card reminded me about how much they think of me everyday. It also reminded me that I don’t stay in touch with them nearly as much as I should.
In our busy, chaotic lives, it’s so easy for us to push our seniors down the priority list. We say we will call them later today, send them an email sometime tomorrow, but often that time never comes. In 1978, Marian McQuade of Oak Hill, West Virginia, founded National Grandparents Day so that we may remember to show our grandparents how much we love and respect them. The holiday aims to meet the following goals:
- To honor our grandparents
- To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children
- To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
National Grandparents Day in the United States is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day. Schools, church groups, and other community organizations conduct special events for their seniors to commemorate the day. Many families hold reunions for grandparents to spend quality time with their grandchildren and relay stories and advice from their good old days.
Over the years people have enjoyed this holiday in many different ways. Here are some of the favorites:
- Hosting a family picnic or barbeque
- Learning a special skill from your grandParent (perhaps even a secret recipe)
- Identifying and dating all the photos in an old family album
- Having a grandparents and grandkids only outing. Be it a hike, a movie, a visit to the Zoo, or a fishing trip, it can be a great bonding activity for the two generations.
- Giving them a bouquet of the National Grandparents Day Flower - The "forget-me-not".
Along with being a fun family holiday, Grandparents Day can also be an opportunity to bring light to one of the biggest issues faced by seniors - isolation. Over 11 million seniors in the U.S. live alone. Many of them do not have a family near by, or any close family members at all. Studies have shown that feelings of loneliness can negatively affect mental and physical health. These seniors are sometimes confined in their homes or in caregiving facilities. When McQuade made her efforts to officialize the holiday, she encouraged the youth to "adopt" a grandparent. From World War II to the Space Race to the Civil Rights movement, our American elders have been through unique experiences, and can therefore provide unconventional perspectives to the younger generations.
My grandparents taught me not just what my family values were, but why we adhere to them. From them I learned to work hard, keep an open-mind, be respectful, and always find a reason to keep smiling. There is much knowledge we can inherit from our grandparents, but it cannot all be gleaned within a day. Let us mark this Grandparents Day with a continued celebration. Whether through a weekly hobby, volunteering activity, or regular chat, let us begin a tradition to ensure not just a day-long, but a life-long appreciation of the seniors we love.
Has a senior citizen had an impact on your life? Do you have a tradition or would like to start one with a grandparent? Tweet @grandpad_social with #theirGrandImpact or #ourGrandTradition