~ Elfing Gifted Elders ~

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Chess with Champagne!*

Elves for Elders is a movement that we see growing across the country. It is an initiative in which community members gift elders in residential care homes. Suggestions for gifts include toiletries, slipper socks, note pads and pencils, popular magazines, and treats. These are all fine ideas and will help individuals feel cared for during the holidays. However, just as we differentiate instruction for students in our schools, perhaps we want to consider responding to other wishes in terms of the cognitive needs of our gifted elders.

Here I offer some suggestions of ways to differentiate giving for gifted elders. Many of the elves for elders websites that I visited emphasized the gift of our time as one of the most precious treasures we can give the elderly. I wholeheartedly agree! With that in mind, here is my wish list for our gifted elders.

  • Take a board game like chess, checkers, backgammon, or other game that you know the resident enjoys and play a few games.
  • For the music lover, bring your mp3 player or other digital device with a favorite symphony, opera, or music from the past to enliven your visit. Or, if you play an instrument, perform a mini-concert for a group of residents. This would be even more fun if you bring a group of musician friends along.
  • Visit with family members or a group for few games of bridge, pinochle, or other card games.
  • For art lovers, bring your laptop or tablet and spend some time virtually visiting some of the world’s finest museums. You might ask your gifted elder what museums he or she has visited and to share stories of the visit and to talk about favorite works of art.
  • Take a recording device and ask the elder to share some life stories with you. Then, for your next visit, transcribe the stories, and – if you have the talent or know someone who can do so – illustrate them, bind them in a pretty portfolio to give to your elder on your next visit. This can be done over a number of visits as well.
  • Perhaps your gifted elder has the ability to paint or draw (remember Grandma Moses, who began seriously painting at the age of 78?). If so, take some art supplies and model for him or help her create still life scenes to illustrate.

These are but a few ideas for stimulating the creative and skillful abilities of our elders. I am sure you have many as well. Won’t you share them with me in the comments below?

*Chess with Champagne!: tristanmartian/Flickr/markittleman/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0: https://goo.gl/tI8VlY (cropped)

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