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dementia care September 8, 2017

Create a memorable Grandparents Day—How to interview grandparents about their lives

Grandparents Day was declared a national celebration in 1978 by then President Jimmy Carter with the intent to “…to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”

What a better way to honor them and appreciate their contributions than to take time to get to know more about them. As children get older and form lasting bonds with grandparents, they often begin wondering more about their grandparents’ lives.

Clues to grandparents’ pasts often surface through old family photos:

  • “Is that Grandma with rolled up jeans, white socks and saddle shoes? Was that in style?”
  • “Who’s wearing those Halloween costumes? Grandma and Grandpa? No way.”
  • “That’s Grandpa on the basketball team? Really? I had no idea.”

At some point, grandchildren realize that their grandparents were once young, too. Kids start to see them as real people who went to school, served in the military, had jobs, raised children, traveled, weathered disappointments and achieved goals.

Family stories—a gift and a legacy

Some grandparents willingly and openly tell stories from their youth and young adulthood, while others are more reluctant, perhaps thinking no one is interested in who they were years ago. But learning their histories can be enlightening and entertaining for grandchildren. In fact, older youth and young adults may view it as their legacy—a treasure passed on to better understand these people whom they love so much.

Boston College sociologist Sara Moorman’s research has shown that close emotional ties between grandparents and adult grandkids are related to fewer symptoms of depression in both generations. “Grandparents have a wealth of experience—they’ll often tell stories about their lives and how things worked when they were young, and once kids become adults, they’re able to maximize those lessons.”

Country Meadows Retirement Communities suggests that Grandparents Day (September 10 this year) would be an ideal time for kids to learn more about their grandparents. Here are a few questions that grandchildren might ask:

  • Where did you live as a child?
  • What did your parents do for a living?
  • Tell me about the schools you attended.
  • Did you have any pets? What were their names?
  • What was your favorite food to eat?
  • What activities did you enjoy in your free time?
  • What did you dream of being when you grew up?

These questions are excerpts from “My Grandparent’s Life Story” in our children’s activity book on understanding dementia,The Unforgettable Adventures of Grandma’s Cape “The Unforgettable Adventures of Grandma’s Cape.” Stop by one of our campuses to pick up a copy or request to have one mailed to you

For more recommended questions to consider, see or

Even if a grandparent is experiencing memory loss or receiving dementia care, talking with them about their earlier years may be possible, depending on the level of their memory loss. Plus, find other ways to enjoy meaningful moments with a grandparent with dementia—see here for ideas. At Country Meadows, a member of our Connections Memory Support Services staff would be glad to counsel and offer suggestions to a grandchild wishing to interview a resident with memory challenges.

Country Meadows welcomes and encourages family interaction—not just on Grandparents Day, but all year long. If you’re thinking of choosing a retirement community, we would like to tell you all about Country Meadows and invite you to visit any of our family-friendly Pennsylvania or Maryland retirement homes: Lancaster, York-South, York-West and Pittsburgh, PA; Frederick, MD and six more. Whether you’re considering a senior independent living community, an assisted living or a personal care home or memory care support, please contact us to learn more about our caring retirement home communities.


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