Is your parent or grandparent celebrating a milestone birthday in 2018? Perhaps Mom will be turning 90 years old. Or Grandpa will hit the rarefied air of a 100th birthday celebration. If Mom and Dad are still going strong, this might be the year they’ll reach their 70th or 75th wedding anniversary. If your friends and family are looking forward to these or similar events in the coming year, make the milestone occasion special with a memorable celebration.
Selecting the Venue
There are a variety of ways to celebrate a milestone birthday in senior living. Work with the administrative staff to see what your options are. Typically, senior living communities have a private room where families can celebrate. However, if the gathering is too large to fit in the private room, check with the staff to see if you can reserve a lounge area for your parent or grandparent’s birthday party. If the birthday is taking place in the warm weather months, an outdoor celebration on a patio, under a pavilion, or even poolside might be possible.
Another possibility is to have the party at a restaurant, banquet center, or a private home. This might enable you to accommodate more guests, on-site catering, and other amenities you desire such as music or entertainment.
Keep in mind that a party at an outside venue would make it more difficult to accommodate friends from your parent’s senior living community. Especially if those friends use wheelchairs or walkers, the best way to accommodate them would be to keep the party on-site—or at the very least, have two celebrations (on-site and elsewhere) so those friends don’t feel left out.
Whatever the setting, make sure your celebration is appropriate for your parent. If you think your mom would like a large, lively party with dozens of guests, then there is nothing wrong with throwing such a big shindig. But if she doesn’t do well in large-group settings and is generally better in one-on-one conversations, then a small intimate party with perhaps a dozen or fewer guests may be the best option.
Making the Party Special
Large or small, there are a number of ways you can make the milestone party special. Consider the following options for your parent’s milestone birthday or anniversary celebration:
Have special decorations. Party supply stores and websites have milestone items such as 90th birthday plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths, banners, and centerpieces. A special touch for milestone birthdays is to order a “chalkboard poster” that details the various occurrences from your parent’s birth year—i.e., what were the top news stories, who won the World Series, what were the most popular songs, and what was the cost of living. It’s fascinating to learn, for instance, that 90 years ago a loaf of bread cost only 9 cents and the price of a new home was just $7,600! These posters can be personalized with the birthday celebrant’s photo and birth date.
Find appropriate music. Even if the party is small, it’s still nice to have some background music. Play tunes that you know your mom or dad will love. Maybe they fondly recall music from The Big Band Era. Or perhaps they still swoon at the sound of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby. Your parents and guests of a similar age will appreciate these songs as a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Share photos. In addition to standard party decorations, consider personalizing the party décor by placing framed or poster-board-mounted photographs of your parent around the room. These photos are great conversation starters that may prompt your mom or dad to share memories of past experiences from their lives. Reminiscing of this nature is a valuable way for grandchildren and great-grandchildren to learn about their family history while also sharing a bond with the older generation.
Create an appropriate menu. Often times, a buffet is the best way to accommodate party guests. Finger foods such as chicken strips, cocktail meatballs, egg rolls, slider sandwiches, mini quiches, fruit salad, and veggie trays are easy to serve. However, make sure that you consider the age of the guests when preparing your menu. Older people may have difficulty chewing and swallowing, so you will want to make sure that your selections are not difficult for them to consume.
Bring on the cake. A focal point of any birthday party is the cake. If you want to go all out by ordering a triple-decker layer cake with fancy icing, then a milestone birthday certainly gives you good reason to do so. But a simple sheet cake that denotes the birthday milestone and your mom or dad’s name may be just fine. Just make sure it’s their favorite flavor. Whatever type of cake you decide to have, be sure you capture a video of all the party-goers singing happy birthday while your parent blows out the candles.
Create a birthday video. Gather photos from various family members to make a slideshow-style video that chronicles the major events of your parent’s life—i.e., childhood and young adulthood, getting married, raising children, going on family vacations, becoming a grandparent, etc. There are a variety of video-editing software programs and apps that make it fairly easy to create your video, complete with transitions, titles, and music. If you can’t do it yourself, recruit a tech-savvy son, daughter, niece, or nephew to complete the task. Then, show the video on a flat-screen TV in the party room. Your Mom or Dad will love it.
Tell stories. Give various friends and family members the opportunity to stand up and tell a story of special memory with your parent. Maybe it’s a story of a cherished Christmas tradition or a family vacation. Maybe it’s a grandchild’s recollection of going fishing with Grandpa or playing gin rummy with Grandma. Retelling those memories will mean a lot to your parent. It’s a way for them to know, on this special day, just how much they have touched the lives of their family and friends.
CHIME IN: What are some of your ideas for a special milestone birthday or anniversary celebration for your parent?