Relationship with grandparents is an interesting one – they witness most of our life stories but many of us know little about theirs. Many of us are distanced from people who have likely been there our entire lives. But bridging that generational gap might be easier than you think. Here are some ways to strengthen your connection with your grandparents.
Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You cannot communicate well with your grandparents because of a language chasm. You live, breathe, sleep English, while your grandparents mostly speak their mother tongue. We get it – it is hard to feel close to your loved ones when you cannot communicate at length with them (read more about the impact of the bilingual policy on intergenerational cohesion in Singapore).
Language barriers are hard to overcome but that should not deter you from employing other forms of communication to interact: gestures, broken language, or even Google Translate. Couple any of these methods with this list of activities, and watch your connection with your grandparents improve over time.
Find pockets of time in the day or week to spend together
Whether you are a student or young working adult, every day is a constant race against time. Most of our waking hours are spent occupied by homework or deadlines, but let us not forget that family relations are just as important as, if not more than, school or work obligations.
As often as you can, have dinners with your grandparents (or breakfast, given that many seniors are early risers). Accompany them in their daily post-dinner walk. Join them for their nightly prime time television binges. If you are not living with your grandparents, make it a family routine to gather at your grandparents’ as many weekends as you can.
But how do you go beyond just being physically together?
Get to know your grandparents’ life history
Our grandparents saw us through all our milestones, from when we started crawling, graduating to forging a career of our own. But ask yourself: is this reciprocated?
Just like how it is often difficult to see our mums and dads as people other than our parents, the same goes for our grandparents. Beyond their blood relation to you, how about getting to know them as you would a friend? Acknowledge them as individuals, and you might find that the conversation starts to flow a lot smoother.
Nevertheless, if you are clueless as to what topics to talk to your grandparents about, here is a tip: People generally love talking about themselves and what they have been through. The fact that your grands have decades of life experience under their belt helps.
So here are some questions to begin with: What are some of the most memorable events they witnessed? What kind of environment did they grow up in, and how does that compare to yours? What kind of music did they listen to growing up?
These are just conversation starters, though. For a meaningful relationship, invest time and sincerity to build something with depth for the long-term.
Develop a shared hobby
Nothing brings people together like bonding through shared interests. Cooking, gardening, mahjong and bingo are some of the more popular (or should I say, stereotypical) activities that seniors might enjoy.
Instead of suggesting hackneyed senior-oriented options, think about what interests your grandparents the most and how you can join in. Do they like cooking? Can you take this chance to learn to make that secret family recipe and become the next family cultural bearer? Introducing your interests or picking up new ones together are alternatives to consider too.
Out of ideas for what both of you might enjoy? Try getting active together! There are many free exercise classes catered to different physical mobility levels. For fresh air, sun and good old social settings, Sundays @ The Park by the Health Promotion Board is recommended. If staying indoors is preferred, follow the beat of a virtual workout session by Singapore Sports Hub.
Up your grandparents’ digital literacy game!
Remember when circuit breaker (Singapore’s version of a lockdown) was a thing? While anyone technologically savvy could circumvent social distancing by migrating our lives to the virtual space, what about elders who may be digital illiterate?
Pandemic restrictions that require the immunity-compromised community to stay at home proved to be emotionally taxing for many. Well, imagine the impact of being isolated if you are an elder who lives alone.
Now is a good time as ever with more time spent at home to teach your grandparents how to use a smartphone, and be patient going about it.
Thankfully, the #CanOneLah! digital literacy campaign has free resources tailored to the learning needs of low-income and illiterate seniors. Using the How Ah? guidebook with simple visual instructions available in four languages, help your grandparents learn to stay in touch with the rest of the family using WhatsApp audio messages, video calls and YouTube.
Did you know, almost half of all dementia cases in Singapore is due to vascular dementia, caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain? Fortunately, the risk of developing it can be reduced by staying physically and mentally active, on top of eating healthily.
By following this list of activities, you will be helping your grandparents ward off vascular dementia, and enjoying greater intimacy with them.