When my father turned 75, we threw him a party. My father is not the party type; he isn’t really into attending them or being the focus of them. But 75 seemed like such a milestone, we planned it as a surprise.
When he was approaching 80 he told me, “I don’t want a party.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “We weren’t planning to.”
“If I make it to 90,” he said, “you can plan a party.”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll send out a save the date now.”
Today my Dad turns 90, and yesterday we had a party for him.
Now ninety is truly a milestone. As I was dressing in the morning, I thought to myself, I hope this is the first of many 90th birthday parties I attend – including my own, assuming I am reasonably healthy at that age.
Having the party wasn’t stress free – what about caregiving ever is?
- We had to get my father there (reasonably on time.) Punctuality is never easy with someone that age, but lucky for me that was my sister’s job yesterday.
- My father lost his balance and fell at the start of the party. He didn’t seem to be hurt (although I will ask the head nurse at his assisted living to check him out today), but it was probably embarrassing for him.
- My daughter made him a frosted brownie and the frosting melted and spilled all over my father’s lap. But overall, it was a great day and one of the upsides of caregiving.
Elderly Birthday Party Ideas
I learned a few things planning and hosting his party and so here are some elderly birthday party ideas to consider whether the guest of honor is 70, 80, 90 or 100.
- Don’t try to host the party and be responsible for the guest. I have a big extended family and yesterday was truly a family affair. My aunt hosted at her house and I arrived early with a few cousins to set up and handle any last minute details. My sister, in town from out of state, was responsible for getting my father to the party. I couldn’t have done both.
- Give all of your siblings a role. As the primary caregiver, you probably know your senior best. But for the sake of family harmony, and because he or she is their parent too, make sure every who wants or needs to has a role. The party doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be pleasant for all involved.
- If it’s possible, host the party away from your parent’s home. My plan for my father’s party was to try to have it on Cape Cod, a place my father loves, but if that wasn’t possible, I was always prepared to have it in the function room at his assisted living facility. I’m so grateful he is healthy enough to get around; having the party at a different location made it feel more festive. But if that’s not a reality for your senior, keep it simple. A simple celebration is always better than an elaborate party full of potential challenges for the guest of honor (or the caregiver!).
- Speaking of simple, read the environment throughout the party and be prepared to make changes. Yesterday we changed plans a few times throughout the day. We originally planned to east outside on the deck, but shifted plans to inside due to cool weather. We planned to sing and cut the cake in the dining room, but my Dad was seated comfortably in the living room, so we brought the cake to him. Flexibility is so important in making sure the party is manageable for all involved. Don’t stay wedded to a vision of the perfect party.
- Know the guest of honor’s limitations. My family likes to make toasts and to roast people at birthday parties. But my father has suffered so much hearing loss, speeches would have been frustrating for him, and so we skipped that tradition.
- Don’t make the party a surprise. I got this advice from a friend who planned a surprise 80th party for her mother. When she went to pick her mother up to take her to a restaurant where the rest of the family was waiting, her mother informed her she had tried a new laxative that morning. Oops! Living a long life is a good enough surprise; the party doesn’t need to be.
- Be prepared with gift suggestions. Many people asked me what they could buy for my father. My first answer was, “Gifts aren’t necessary,” but I know some people like to bring a present so I had ideas ready. Books and photo collages were out because his vision is bad. Restaurant gift certificates were out because the din in restaurants makes it impossible for him to hear any conversations. I suggested gift cards to the pharmacy and grocery store; my Dad takes a bus tip to those stores once a week with the assisted living staff. I also suggested some new shirts and pants. Because my father lived through the Great Depression he is very frugal. His clothes are old and showing wear. He doesn’t want me spending my money, or his, on new clothes when his, “are perfectly fine,” but if he received some new clothes as gifts, he would upgrade his wardrobe. Have a few ideas in mind that are appropriate for your elderly parent.
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