As we grow older, siblings  are one of the  greatest sources of comfort.  Family members or an aging professional can promote this salve by connecting an older person with their sibling for visits over the telephone, computer via letters or in person and offer the elder great solace in old age.

Older siblings can share reminiscences, plus day-to-day comparisons because they are longest relationship any of us have in life. They have the amazing ability to be both the microscope and a telescope of time. Because siblings have been little studied, especially the old/old siblings

Elderly women, many times widows and the largest group in the old/old. These older women’s  need for personal care may be largely answered by women (daughters, daughter in law, and sisters-) tipping the gender scale.

This is because of a cultural modesty and wish for women to be  physically exposed only around other women. Also the  a sex taboo in our culture prevents sons from giving intimate care to mothers and that same taboo may stop mothers from asking.

Old /old siblings  enjoy gathering and most frequently gather at rituals such as weddings, funerals, christenings any family passage. The aging professional or family member’s job is to  keep up on when and where all family rituals may be happening and arrange if possible, for the older siblings  to attend these events, to sees each other.

If the older sibling cannot attend, arranging telephone calls and email if the older siblings are is technologically savvy, are the next best thing. Having slide shows sent on photo sites and shown on adult children or grandchildren’s laptops is another way to engage older siblings in rituals where other siblings are in attendance. Skype is another idea using a family members computer.

Family reunions are another form of occasional activities where elderly siblings can be paired with sisters and brothers to increase quality of life.

Weekly or even daily activities, as well can build in interaction with elderly siblings various recreational activities such as shopping, church and outdoor barbeques or any   community activities can be arranged with siblings. Even, if siblings live in the same town, adult day health care, senior center activities or socialization geared for seniors can be shared by elderly siblings.

Home recreational activities were seen by siblings as very enjoyable occasions to be with their siblings. If you client likes puzzles or watching jeopardy pair it with a visit of a sibling.  Assess you clients interest in activities and if possible make sure they at the events or you arrange the events, like shopping with siblings. As seen by the research here, this is not only going to enhance the well-being and psychological state of  older siblings , but elevate their quality of life.

About the Authors

Cathy Cress M.S.W.

Cathy Cress, M.S.W., holds a degree in Aging from U.C. Berkeley. She is the coauthor of Mom Loves You Best, Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships.

Kali Peterson MS, MPA

Kali Cress Peterson MS, MPA, is the co-author of Mom Loves You Best, Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships.

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