The old saying goes, “You’re never too old for a birthday,” yet senior citizens often-times shy away from planning or agreeing to their own birthday celebrations.
The most common excuse is the “inconvenience factor,” that a celebration of life will be an imposition on friends and relatives. Another common reason for bowing out of a birthday party is the feeling that because many of their peers and close relatives have already passed, there would simply be no one to invite to the festivities.
My favorite excuse is from seniors who want to spare themselves the pain and agony of hearing the many repetitive jokes about the number of candles on the cake. There’s no doubt that for many older folks, birthdays can put the guest of honor in a melancholy state as he or she wistfully recalls the good old days.
As a society, Americans are especially used to celebrating “milestone birthdays”: the opportunity to drive, to vote and for some, to be old enough to purchase and consume alcoholic beverage. In other cultures, the Chinese in particular, birthdays under the age of 60 are not usually recognized at all. In fact, most Asian cultures (many non-Asian as well), practice the belief that along with increased age comes greater wisdom. The older a person is, the greater the festivities.
If you have a beloved senior citizen who will soon be celebrating another year of life, consider ways to help celebrate not just the senior’s age, but his or her cherished memories as well. Attendees can recount funny and poignant stories from the senior’s past. Decorate with memorabilia and photographs. Indulge the guest of honor with favorite foods, savory reminders of when health issues and the challenges associated with old age weren’t even a remote consideration.
Another idea is to have party guests draw pictures prior to the event that depict special memories and events in the senior’s life. The birthday “girl” or “boy” can guess what each memory is, offering color commentary from her or his perspective. Laughs and group participation are sure to follow.
Whether celebrating a senior’s 80th, a toddler’s first birthday or a teenager’s Sweet 16, I’m a proponent of parties for all ages. Celebrating with friends and families is always a good thing, and is a heartfelt way of creating new memories that will last a lifetime.