As local families prepare their children to head back to the classroom, there is one segment of the population that is often forgotten: Grandparents.
Why are grandparents so important? Because, according to Senior Helpers, one of the largest American in-home senior care agencies, the number of children in America who live with a grandparent has increased 64 percent over the past two decades.
In New York City, an estimated 100,000 grandparent have stepped in to raise their grandchildren or other young relatives in the absence of the children’s birth parents. And in communities such as Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, the number of older adults raising their grandchild is particularly high.
While there are resources and programs available to help fill the backpacks of children in need, let's not forget to provide support resources for their aging parents. To enable them and support their cognitive skills will only help them the better serve the needs of the children for whom they care.
According to the Mayo Clinic, seniors who engage in cognitive activities, play games or participate in crafts, have a 30-50 percent decrease in memory loss.
"Studies show that without stimulating activity, seniors can lose memory, feel depressed and isolated and have a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers.
For this reason, Senior Helpers is helping local families create Senior “Back-to-School Backpacks” to keep elderly loved ones sharp and engaged. Below are specific games all seniors can benefit from, including seniors suffering from the most feared disease among the elderly, Alzheimer’s:
Backpack items should include:
• Hand-held computer games (such as Connect Four or Scrabble)
• Books, magazines or crossword puzzles
• Do-It-Yourself birdhouse kit
• Fake flowers to arrange
• Deck of cards
• Etch-a-sketch (draw or play games such as Hang Man, Tic-Tac-Toe, etc.)
• Paint by numbers (model cars or other objects)
• Gardening seeds
Senior “Back-to-School Backpack” for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s:
• Bingo – studies show this game is highly therapeutic for those with cognitive disorders. People in the study performed slightly better on cognitive tests and showed an increase in alertness and awareness hours after testing (American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia).
• Smart Brain – This game provides stimulation to cognitive facilities like attention and memory (Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry). The study shows this game improved cognition in a group of elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
• Nintendo’s, Brain Age - originally intended to improve the working of the healthy brain but it’s also effective therapy for those with dementia.
• Qwirkle - it can be played in many ways and by people at different stages of Alzheimer's. People in early stages can play by the rules or as a game of strategy. Later it can be used for color and pattern matching.
• Board games, such as Monopoly – board games with a colorful playing surface and objects that can be handled (such as dice, money, cards, etc.) are preferred.
Also, if you’re one of these elderly caregivers or know of an elderly caregiver, the New York City Department for the Aging’s Grandparent Resource Center (GRC) can provide information, peer counseling, referral to community services and support groups specifically for seniors caring for grandchildren in helping them better cope with the myriad challenges they face this school year.