Quality intergenerational time that transcends disabilities
October 16, 2007 8:26 PM   Subscribe

What activities can I initiate with my substantially-deaf, substantially-blind grandfather?

I am 23. A while ago I moved to the same metropolitan area as my grandparents. Grandpa's vision and hearing have been going downhill for a while, leading to his increasing frustration. Grandma is not experiencing such problems. Help me make the most of our quality time together, either just with Grandpa or with both. I could meet with them up to twice a month either alone or with other family members.

They are in their mid-80s and still live in their own lake-front house. They walk (slowly) for exercise every morning and manage to do most of the things they need to do around the house on their own. Active activities would generally be difficult.

The current pattern of activity is Grandma invites 3 of us over for dinner, we chat over dinner, and Grandpa misses most of the conversation. If you take care to speak loudly, slowly, and in his direction, he understands most of it.

General suggestions are welcome, but if you need something to get your imagination going... Grandpa was a chemist before he retired and is interested in science, ancient civilizations, Italy, fiction writing, classical guitar/jazz music and harassing squirrels. He taught me to play chess. Grandma reads the newspaper and crossword puzzles aloud to him every day.

Perhaps activities specifically geared to stimulate touch, taste or smell would be engaging?
posted by moreandmoreso to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Grandpa misses most of the conversation. If you take care to speak loudly, slowly, and in his direction, he understands most of it.

I bet the lack of normal conversation is what frustrates him. I'll bet he'd really enjoy just being talked to listened to. I don't know your gp, but I know I wouldn't bother to learn a new activity in my mid-80's.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:33 PM on October 16, 2007

Is there no possibility of improving his hearing with a hearing aid (or a better/newer hearing aid)? Being able to understand what someone's saying seems like such a fundamental part of interacting.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:37 PM on October 16, 2007

Is there a botanical garden near you? I think I'd like going there if I were blind.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:43 PM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so far...

I'm not necessarily looking for an activity that needs to be learned--just something to do or somewhere to go.

He's had a hearing aid for the past 15 years or so. I'm pretty sure they've exhausted their hearing aid options (but I'll ask Grandma).
posted by moreandmoreso at 8:43 PM on October 16, 2007

Try taking them to a concert, maybe an outdoors one. The music will be loud, he can enjoy the physical sensations the music creates.
posted by JujuB at 8:54 PM on October 16, 2007

How about gardening? A lot of that is touch; getting plants, potting them or putting them in the ground. There's a good smell component, too, but he may not be so sensitive in the smeller now, either. I mean this as something you could do together.

How's his typing? Are you able to correspond with him through e-mail?
posted by amtho at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: amtho-- His typing itself was/is fine, but I think the vision problems have stopped solo computer use. Grandma sends the e-mails now. At any rate, the only way for him to read an e-mail I send to him is to have Grandma read it or to print it out and place it under his gigantic magnifying machine/screen so the letters are 2 inches tall.
posted by moreandmoreso at 9:04 PM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: So yes, e-mail correspondence is possible.
posted by moreandmoreso at 9:05 PM on October 16, 2007

Would it be possible to get a dog for them? You could look into police training or guide dog program rejects. There are also retired guide dogs. They can go on walks together and the dog has training with service. And your grandpa can train him to harass squirrels.
posted by spec80 at 9:42 PM on October 16, 2007

My grandfather has the same problems. He likes listened to and his advice followed. He also likes little nerdly reports of my life that are packaged especially for him. He likes to be paid attention to, in general, and not seen as a unit with grandma at all times.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:57 AM on October 17, 2007

An after or pre-dinner walk with just you might be nice, even if it is very slow and you both don't go far. It would give him a chance to talk after being a little excluded from the dinner conversation.
posted by PY at 1:57 AM on October 17, 2007

My mostly-blind, considerably-deaf grandfather loved to go for car rides in the country to his old haunts. Sure he couldn't see them well or hear that well but he just enjoyed the feeling of being there and being around us and being valued for his existance and his history.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:21 AM on October 17, 2007

Has he given up on chess?

The thing about chess is, even if he can't see well, if he's a good player, he can still tell the pieces by touch and have a good mental understanding of the board.

Also, yellow and black are the "best" high visibility contrast combination. A friend made a custom yellow vs black checkers set specifically so she could play checkers with her grandmother (who had failing eyesight).
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 AM on October 17, 2007

i'm glad you are thinking of ways to better enjoy your time with your grandfather. it's amazing how much you regret them when they are gone.

i know this is ludicrously obvious, but what about just sitting and leaning in very closely to him so that he can hear you (maybe at the dinner table, seated next to him, so it doesn't feel so unnatural and embarrass him)? if you sit almost touching him and then speak into his ear (the better one), he'd probably do better. and to have a real conversation, to connect and hear and be heard-- i'm sure that would be his favorite thing.

and seconding jamaro: ask him about his younger days. learn as many of his stories as you can. even better, video (or just audio) record him telling you.
posted by buka at 12:01 PM on October 17, 2007

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