Did you know that a study done by the Children’s Gauge at the University of Cape Town noted that nearly 4 million children in South Africa were living with a grandparent or an aunt? There are many adults today, especially in South Africa, who were raised by grandparents and who attribute their success to their elders. As a result, they are wanting to spoil their gogos and umkhulus with something truly unique and special such as a memorable holiday experience.
If this is you, here are some great ways to treat and spoil your elders.
One of the most precious things to elders is memories – memories of past experiences with friends and family, things they have done and senm, and different places they have seen. “If you know your folks, grandparents or a special aunt or uncle, you’ll know if they’ve wanted to experience certain things,” says Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel.
“A trip to the Kruger National Park, for example, in peak animal-sighting season, along with a stay at a hotel or lodge with staff that will treat your elders like gold, is a great idea and not something that has been attainable to many of our grandparents,” he continues. “If your loved ones are up for it, spoil them with a guided game drive through the park to build memories from seeing epic rhino, elephants, or leopards (and photographing them). This will be an incredible story to share with the family.”
“Alternatively, if they don’t want a game drive, choose an accommodation option such as Kruger Gate Hotel where they can sit peacefully on the deck and view the game wandering around the watering hole – with staff to bring them anything they need without having to move.”
Travel gift cards or vouchers
Another great idea is to get a gift card or voucher for your elders. “Many hotels and attractions across the country offer gift cards or vouchers for accommodation,” says Gillis. “You can also get flight tickets for them. And if you pair this package with a few vouchers to see some great attractions in that city, it will add extra magic to their adventure!”
When thinking about this option, it’s important to consider all costs. Unless you know your elders are available on those specific dates to fly and stay, build in the potential cost of changing dates. Check with the airline and hotel what the costs would be to change dates. The same applies for attractions.
“Alternatively, have an open chat with your loved ones and find out their availability,” says Gillis. “The surprise factor won’t be there, but the anticipation will! And it will give your elders peace of mind having a set schedule to work with.”
As we get older, spending time with the people we love becomes more valuable than ever. So, whisk your elders away on a family holiday with you and the kids, but remember that older folk don’t have as much energy as they used to, and they also don’t like to be over-stimulated. They may try to be involved in everything the family does, but practically, their resilience is limited. So include them in as much family activity as is safe and manageable for them, but build in time for peace and quiet where they can rest and regain their strength. And build a mix of calmer and more energetic activities into the family holiday schedule.
A staycation is also another travel gift idea. You can have your elders stay with you for a couple of days, and treat them like royalty for that time.
Take them tea in bed in the mornings, and cook their favourite foods for lunches and dinners during their stay. Then spoil them by taking them to some interesting attractions. Keep in mind what interests them, then plan a few outings to those attractions. A museum or local market – just be aware of the amount of walking that may need to be done at these and cater accordingly. Or a lovely high tea at a fancy hotel. Even something as simple as taking them and the kids to a playpark with a picnic lunch, where your elderly loved one can sit quietly on a park bench and enjoy watching the children play, while nibbling on some picnic snacks, will raise their happiness barometer.
How to wrap a vacation gift
If your holiday gift is a surprise, this is the best, most fun part – how to wrap up your travel gift.
It’s not a physical object so you will need to apply some creative thought to this one. If you’re sending your elders on a cruise, wrap up a little toy cruise liner – preferably with the liner’s name on it, even if it’s written on – then use a travel tag as the card.
Getting the kids involved in the wrapping process will have an even more special impact. For example, if you’re sending them to the Kruger National Park, let the kids help you build a little wildlife scene in an empty shoebox. Plastic animals, some sand and dry grass all glued into the bottom of the box, then draw a map of where they currently are and where they’ll be going, then attach a little hand-drawn location pin at their destination. You can pop the lid on and wrap it up. Make sure to add a note to the gift saying ‘fragile’, so your elders won’t turn the box over to unwrap it and send all the kids’ artwork into disarray.
Whatever you choose, your grandparents deserve to be spoiled, especially if they were heavily involved in raising you. That, and taking them on holiday and treating them in this way ensures that you still get to squeeze in some valuable time and bank treasured memories with them.