I have been spending a lot of time in a Jewish retirement facility recently and I have studied the visits people make. To be honest, I think we can do better.

Here are ways we can join in the activities and make visiting Jewish retirement homes a greater part of our lives.

Family Visits

Families visit, but they don’t stay. They don’t overstay their welcome like Jewish families are supposed to. We have to stop this. Family should stay longer.

Visit Unannounced

We don’t visit enough. Since when has anybody ever worried about visiting their parents’ home? Now, that your parents finally have fulltime cleaning help, you’re worried about dirtying up their home?! That’s chutzpah – go and visit, will you?

Bring the Grandkids

Bring the kids and fight like you do at the Shabbat table. Let the grandkids run around and yell at them. It should feel like home. Better yet, drop the kids off with your elderly parents so the nurses have to babysit. Did somebody say, “Date night”?

Love Being Their Child

Some of you avoid the retirement home because you are sick of being a kid. Yes, it’s embarrassing to be seventy-two and still have your mom pinching your cheeks telling everybody, “This is my son. I am so proud of him. He’s a lawyer… Retired lawyer. He says ‘retired.’ He’s still a lawyer. … Don’t eat too much Bernie. You look bloated. I’m so proud of him. Look at those punim.” But you are their child, and you have big cheeks. Be happy somebody is proud of you.

Come for a Meal

If you like sponge cake, you are in for a treat. Retirement homes are sponge cake heaven. Marble, vanilla, Rosh Hashana honey style, whatever pastry you choose. Chewing is not necessary – all you need to do is digest. You have sponge cake, potatoes in mashed form, fruit in sauce form. It’s a pureed paradise. If you want to down a record number of calories in the shortest periods of time, this is the place.

Another benefit, the dining room table is on rollers. The most amazing contraption known to man, you don’t need to put any effort into supper. You’re eating sponge cake off a dining room table that comes to you.

Activities Are Fun

Most of the time, the family comes and sits on the side and just watches the activities. Join in the good times offered at the Jewish Home.

Aerobics

Is that aerobics or dancing? Who cares? Everybody loves “YMCA.” And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own chair.

Karaoke

We all karaoke at home, but it’s pathetic to sing to yourself. At the Jewish Home you can karaoke and have an audience in your parent’s living room. And these are the Golden Oldies. Sinatra, Martin, Elvis. Finally, a place you can croon and not be judged for it.

Entertainment

Movies, shows, dancing, music, you know what you’re getting. Every movie night is going to be The Sound of Music, The Ten Commandments or anything featuring Sammy Davis Jr.

Jewish Day School Entertainment

It seems as though midday entertainment is dependent on Jewish day schools going on field trips. The kids go, sing a song and smile. But this experience should be done right.

Get Down the Songs Before You Come

These kids have got to get better. There is nothing worse than a group of Jewish teenagers singing a messed-up version of “Salam.” The residents aren’t fools. They know when they’re not getting quality entertainment. They’ve seen the local Frank Sinatra impersonator at karaoke night.

These kids are so off tune. This is not a rehearsal, it’s show time. You’ve got to come with your harmonies down. Respect your elders – this isn’t a glee club dry run.

Bring Talented Kids for the Dance

I saw a dance the other day was pathetic. They did the clap followed by an unsynchronized hand lift. I don’t know who’s bringing this group of underachievers, but they are totally messing up the horah. How hard is it to get five-year-olds to choreograph something decent?

Start a Friendship Program

How much better would the Jewish community be if twelve year olds stopped hanging around with each other and chose eighty five year olds instead? They’re missing out on some good YMCA.

Partner the kids with their elders. They will learn more than what they are taught in social studies by that know it all twenty-three-year-old who graduated with honors. It was twelfth grade before I realized that social studies is basically history class. Any resident would’ve taught me that.

Religious Community Activities Never Involve the Jewish Home

We build our infrastructure outside of the one facility that some people can’t leave. Do more activities in the Jewish Home.

Join for Services

Why don’t we start going to retirement homes for prayer services. Many residents can’t make it to shul anymore yet their name is still on the seat. Show a little respect and daven with them.

They have Bingo too. Prayer and Bingo; it’s a full Jewish community experience.

Board Meetings

Have the shul board meetings at the Jewish Home. Why should they be left out of the decisions that are causing the downfall of the shul they built? The residents still pay dues – they should also get to join in the complaining.

We need to make the Jewish retirement homes a regular part of our Jewish community life. I’m so committed to the cause, I’ll do whatever it takes. I will lead the aerobics classes.