Many people today view Memorial Day as a three-day weekend filled with barbecues, beach bashes, and an extra day off on Monday. But for our seniors, many of whom have fought in one or more wars, and have seen friends and relatives fall in battle, Memorial Day is a much more sober and somber time.
With a little planning, there are several activities to make this patriotic holiday special for the residents of senior living communities and their families.
Perhaps the easiest and most patriotic activity would simply be the raising of Old Glory in a short and simple ceremony. It may seem basic but what greater way to commemorate our heroes than to salute them with our cherished flag?
Barbecues and picnics are signature events for this holiday, and hosting one for your senior residents and their families is a great way to celebrate. Perhaps ask the families if they can bring formal military wear or medals for seniors to don for the event. A guest speaker could include local politicians or clergy to offer a few words during the festivities. Remember, if the event is held outside, be sure to provide shade, comfortable seating, SPF protection from the sun, and lots of water for hydration! And of course, keep dietary needs in mind when preparing or providing the picnic for the residents.
Everyone loves a parade! Many resident veterans might enjoy a special outing to take in the local parade, weather permitting, on Memorial Day. If no local events have been planned, or if staffing or transportation are an issue, a nationally broadcast service or parade may be available for residents to enjoy in the common area or media room. Decorate the area with mini-flags, red, white & blue bunting, and holiday-themed treats, including cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream, to provide a party atmosphere. If possible, try to find a flag representing each branch of the military, or at least one from all the branches your residents have served.
Red poppies are known as the universal remembrance flower, as it has been used as a way for people to mourn the loss of soldiers in the line of duty dating back to World War I. Schedule a craft activity for residents to make their own red poppies. You can also contact your state’s headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to purchase artificial red poppies through the Buddy Poppy Program, a program in which the poppies are made by disabled veterans in veteran hospitals.
Not Just Bingo is an online resource of fun, senior activity ideas for activity professionals at senior living communities. They have been providing fun activity ideas online since 2009 and meaningful and engaging activity ideas for their residents that go “beyond bingo.” Not Just Bingo aims to better the living experiences of senior residents through fun and different games and activities.
And finally, the National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder, Carmella LaSpada, states, “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”
Whether or not your senior loved one is a veteran, there are many wonderful ways to commemorate Memorial Day with them. You can make this Memorial Day special and memorable by spending time together, recognizing the sacrifices of our service members, and making new memories. Happy Memorial Day!