5 things to do to keep your connection strong as Dad ages
He taught you how to ride a bike and drive a car. He played catch with you in the backyard until the sun went down. Now that you're both adults, how do you spend quality time with Dad?
"The adult-to-adult years are when a parent-offspring relationship can be maximally fulfilling," writes Susan Heitler Ph.D. in an article for Psychology Today. "Adult-to-adult parent-child time together can include mutual helping, learning from each other and shared fun. These bonds can develop to a depth and breadth that few other relationships can equal."
Time with our loved ones is precious, whether they're 24 or 84. Schedule a "date night" or "date day" with Dad regularly so you can learn more about him, deepen your bond and possibly even heal old wounds. Here are a few fun date ideas.
1. Bring back a childhood activity
What did you and your Dad do together when you were a kid? If he helped you perfect your pitching arm, take him to a local baseball game. If he follows a particular team, plan a game night at home — you bring the team jerseys and snacks. If he loved to spend time on the water, is there a way you can give him that experience now?
2. Nurture his hobbies.
Some men open up more when they're doing something constructive or active, such as walking or driving. Depending on his interests, take Dad bowling, to the golf course or birding. Play his favorite card game or assemble a jigsaw puzzle. You may get him to talk more freely than you would sitting face-to-face.
3. Go outside.
Researchers in Finland found that after sitting outside in nature for 15 minutes, people felt 20 percent better than those in an urban environment. Take Dad for a walk, pausing to enjoy the scenery and conversation. Dr. Heitler wrote that her favorite activity with her father, in his late 90s, was to take him in his wheelchair for a walk along a paved bike path.
4. Explore local universities.
Local colleges and universities offer a wealth of low-cost events for you and Dad. Listen to a classical concerto performed by the college orchestra. Take in a play put on by the theater department. Attend a college football, baseball or soccer game. Note: check for senior discounts.
5. Look through photo albums.
Many older adults love looking at old photo albums and sharing memories. By looking at family photos, you may learn about your family history as well as hear stories from Dad's youth. Did you know he used to own a motorcycle? Now you do!
If Dad struggles with dementia, approach the activity carefully. Photos may trigger memories, but they may also frustrate them. Keep the focus on connecting rather than correcting.
The next time you plan to visit Dad, find an activity you can enjoy together. You can have fun trying something new and nurture that father-daughter or father-son connection.