While we can’t control the passage of time, we can help our loved ones age comfortably, happily, and independently. However, ageing may mean that the senior in your life is less physically able or feel that he or she has no specific purpose in life. This can mean that sometimes trying to help the seniors in our family may be counterproductive, and be seen as intrusive and as a loss of control.

So how can you care for your elderly loved one in a way that is respectful and welcomed?

1. Do things with, instead of for them

Our seniors may be in their golden years, but they have spent years living productive lives, and ageing may leave them feeling unwanted and helpless. Instead of taking over their chores and doing things for them, try to do things with them. For example, get Mum involved with cooking or food preparation instead of cooking meals for her. If doing the laundry and ironing is too challenging for your elderly uncle, let him fold and put away the clean laundry.

2. Ask them for help

Whatever our age, we all like to feel useful. Look for opportunities at home or outside the home that your senior can participate in. Your elderly aunt can chip in to babysit the children, or help to tend the garden or house plants. And if your Dad is a whiz with DIY, helping to fix things around the home may be an activity that keeps him engaged and happy.

3. Respect their wishes

Making decisions without consulting your elderly loved one or doing everything for them can make him or her feel helpless. Try to be respectful, and don’t give advice unless it is asked for. You can show support without giving advice, but instead, spend more time offering a listening ear. Or you can ask questions as conversation starters. Doing this could mean accepting that there may be differences in opinion and when that happens, either agree to disagree, or try to reach a compromise.

4. Make them feel included

Being around people and social interactions help your senior loved ones feel loved and included. The growing years can be isolating when your loved one goes out less, or has fewer friends. Try to include your senior when there is a family get-together, or seek opportunities to participate in community activities, or join a group with similar interests—such as baking, playing the ukulele, bird watchers, or line dancing.

5. Spend quality time together

For the elderly, loneliness and depression can be a common problem, which can negatively impact their health. Spend time regularly with your elders to chat and do things together will bring a smile to their faces, and are vital for healthy aging. If visiting regularly is not possible, phone or video calls with positive conversations can also show how much you care.