For those members of the Greatest Generation and their children, the Baby Boomers who are entering their own golden years, Memorial Day holds a special place in their hearts. If they didn’t serve themselves, there’s a good chance their spouse or their parent did. In fact, 50 percent of U.S. veterans are age 65 or older.
Giving the seniors in your family the chance to honor those service members who have passed can make Memorial Day even more meaningful to them. Between the BBQs, the baseball games and pool time, it’s important to recognize what this day is truly about, especially with those who it touches the most. Here are six ways to help your loved one honor the holiday:
- Attend a memorial service. Many houses of worship, senior centers, cemeteries, and landmarks will host special ceremonies on Memorial Day to recognize the fallen. For instance, here in the St. Louis region, Jefferson Barracks National Ceremony features a sea of flags gracing 200,000 headstones and hosts a memorial service in its chapel. Or, visit Soldiers Memorial Military Museum for a flag and remembrance ceremony at 10 a.m.
- Volunteer in a loved one’s honor. Seniors can memorialize their loved ones by being of service to other veterans and current military families. Join your parent or grandparent in putting care packages together for overseas troops through Operation Gratitude, donating to the Honor Flight Network to help veterans visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C., or visiting with veterans at your local VA hospital.
- Join a parade. If your loved one can leave the house, observe the holiday with marching bands, floats and flags. The Alton Memorial Day Parade, held since 1868 in Alton, Ill., is the nation’s oldest consecutive parade honoring the military. To find the best viewing location for a senior with mobility issues, contact the hosts at 618-462-7527 for recommendations. If your loved one can’t leave home, turn on the National Memorial Day Parade from D.C., which can be live streamed or viewed on KSDK.
- Share your loved one’s story. If the senior in your life is willing, gather your family together for your own memorial service at home. Encourage your loved one to share photos of and stories about their friends and families who served. Ask questions about what life was like for them during wartime. And if you can, record the experience or create a memory book so you have a record for future generations of your family.
- Go on a picnic. Memorial Day is synonymous with outdoors and BBQs! Pack up a basket of your loved one’s all-American favorites, like fried chicken, hot dogs and apple pie, and head to a local park. For those seniors who may be experiencing the blues this holiday, time outside can help them relax, ease their anxiety and lower their stress level.
- Focus on flowers. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, a time when the public would decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers. Encourage your loved one to pick out a bouquet or wreath online through your local flower shop and join them as they lay it at their loved one’s final resting place. You can also purchase a second bouquet for an unadorned gravesite or sponsor a thank you bouquet for $15 through the Memorial Day Foundation to be placed at a national war memorial.
With most World War II veterans and their spouses now in their late 80s and 90s, it’s more vital than ever to recognize their experiences and capture their stories, whether you celebrate the holiday with them at a special event or in the comfort of home. We at AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis thank those seniors we serve for their service and honor the sacrifices they and their families made to give us the freedom we enjoy today.