Dad Turns 90; Elderly Birthday Party Ideas

When my father turned 75, we threw him a party. My father is not the party type; he isn’t really into attending them or being the focus of them. But 75 seemed like such a milestone, we planned it as a surprise.

When he was approaching 80 he told me, “I don’t want a party.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We weren’t planning to.”

“If I make it to 90,” he said, “you can plan a party.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll send out a save the date now.”

Today my Dad turns 90, and yesterday we had a party for him.

One of my father's birthday presents

One of my father’s birthday presents

Now ninety is truly a milestone.  As I was dressing in the morning, I thought to myself, I hope this is the first of many 90th birthday parties I attend – including my own, assuming I am reasonably healthy at that age.

Having the party wasn’t stress free – what about caregiving ever is?

  • We had to get my father there (reasonably on time.) Punctuality is never easy with someone that age, but lucky for me that was my sister’s job yesterday.
  • My father lost his balance and fell at the start of the party. He didn’t seem to be hurt (although I will ask the head nurse at his assisted living to check him out today), but it was probably embarrassing for him.
  • My daughter made him a frosted brownie and the frosting melted and spilled all over my father’s lap. But overall, it was a great day and one of the upsides of caregiving.

Elderly Birthday Party Ideas

I learned a few things planning and hosting his party and so here are some elderly birthday party ideas to consider whether the guest of honor is 70, 80, 90 or 100.

    1. Don’t try to host the party and be responsible for the guest. I have a big extended family and yesterday was truly a family affair. My aunt hosted at her house and I arrived early with a few cousins to set up and handle any last minute details. My sister, in town from out of state, was responsible for getting my father to the party. I couldn’t have done both.
    1. Give all of your siblings a role. As the primary caregiver, you probably know your senior best. But for the sake of family harmony, and because he or she is their parent too, make sure every who wants or needs to has a role. The party doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be pleasant for all involved.
    1. If it’s possible, host the party away from your parent’s home. My plan for my father’s party was to try to have it on Cape Cod, a place my father loves, but if that wasn’t possible, I was always prepared to have it in the function room at his assisted living facility. I’m so grateful he is healthy enough to get around; having the party at a different location made it feel more festive. But if that’s not a reality for your senior, keep it simple. A simple celebration is always better than an elaborate party full of potential challenges for the guest of honor (or the caregiver!).
    1. Speaking of simple, read the environment throughout the party and be prepared to make changes. Yesterday we changed plans a few times throughout the day. We originally planned to east outside on the deck, but shifted plans to inside due to cool weather. We planned to sing and cut the cake in the dining room, but my Dad was seated comfortably in the living room, so we brought the cake to him. Flexibility is so important in making sure the party is manageable for all involved. Don’t stay wedded to a vision of  the perfect party.
    1. Know the guest of honor’s limitations. My family likes to make toasts and to roast people at birthday parties. But my father has suffered so much hearing loss, speeches would have been frustrating for him, and so we skipped that tradition.
    1. Don’t make the party a surprise. I got this advice from a friend who planned a surprise 80th party for her mother. When she went to pick her mother up to take her to a restaurant where the rest of the family was waiting, her mother informed her she had tried a new laxative that morning. Oops! Living a long life is a good enough surprise; the party doesn’t need to be.
  1. Be prepared with gift suggestions. Many people asked me what they could buy for my father. My first answer was, “Gifts aren’t necessary,” but I know some people like to bring a present so I had ideas ready. Books and photo collages were out because his vision is bad. Restaurant gift certificates were out because the din in restaurants makes it impossible for him to hear any conversations. I suggested gift cards to the pharmacy and grocery store; my Dad takes a bus tip to those stores once a week with the assisted living staff. I also suggested some new shirts and pants. Because my father lived through the Great Depression he is very frugal. His clothes are old and showing wear. He doesn’t want me spending my money, or his, on new clothes when his, “are perfectly fine,” but if he received some new clothes as gifts, he would upgrade his wardrobe. Have a few ideas in mind that are appropriate for your elderly parent.

You might also like:

Caregiving is a Gift

6 Father’s Day Activities To Do With Elderly Dads


24 comments on “Dad Turns 90; Elderly Birthday Party Ideas”

  1. Haralee Reply

    These are all excellent tips. Getting everyone on board and only about the birthday person is so vital for the flexibility needed. We had a very small birthday party for my Mother when she turned 90 and it was one of the last times she was comfortable going out, so in hind sight it turned out to be a very special event.

  2. Rena McDaniel Reply

    Congratulations on reaching this truly impressive mile-stone and happy birthday to your father. I am glad that the party turned out good for the most part. I hope to be celebrating moms 90th in the future.

  3. Pam Reply

    My dad is turning 90 soon, and I love the baseball cap idea! Do you happen to know if it was ordered online? Just wondering where I could get one. Thanks!

  4. susanah Reply

    Whom to invite other than immediate family? How far back to go in ‘life connections’ as my father doesn’t get around much anymore?? Thank you

    • admin Reply

      Great questions Susanah. Make sure the guest list isn’t so big as to overwhelm the guest of honor. As far as connections o different parts of life: if the guest of honor remembers them, go for it – it’s nice to walk down memory lane.

  5. Emily Gaffney Reply

    My mother’s 90th two years ago was a huge event but I took a lot of your tips into account… The enitre family flew in from all over the country and Mom said it was the “best day of my life.” Gratitude doesn’t get much clearer than that! For her 92nd birthday this year, it so happened that we were having a memorial service for my sister in law who died last year. Although a sad occasion for sure, it was yet another time that the whole family gathered and also had a chance to celebrate Mom’s 92nd birthday. She loves a good cake, but her best gift of all was having everyone there again. Thanks for your article Liz!

  6. Cimarron Reply

    It’s easy to read between the lines you are a super sensitive and caring Daughter. What a supportive family, all working together. It sounds like your Dad received Honor, and felt everyones’ love and well wishes. I’m betting your Father is extremely thankful. Blessings!

  7. Camille C Reply

    Best wishes to you family. This is such a hep for me! Thank you! It’s my grandfather’s 90th this weekend and the entire family is traveling across the country to visit Louisiana. It’ll be held in the old folks home with his wife and his friends there to enjoy. He can be a bit of a crotchety old man but he’s really sweet and funny when you call him out on it. We’re looking at logistics like drinks (its Louisiana so we have to have it!), food, decorations, and music. I assist in events at work but I’ve never assisted with this age group before. Could you possibly offer some insight on the kind of small bites or decorations we could bring? Any extra advice is welcome.

  8. Pingback: Five Fun Ways To Spend An Afternoon Visiting Assisted Living – Caregiver CornerCaregiver Corner

  9. Patti Graves Reply

    My father will be 90 yrs old in a month and is a retired pediatrician in the city we live in. Before COVID, it would thrill him to go out to eat, to the grocery store or just out and about and have someone come up to him to tell him Hi and that they used to be patients of his or he used to take care of their children. Although we will.have family and friends at the drive by party, I’d like to advertise some way through social media that we’re having the party so his former patients, etc. could come. Do you have any ideas of how to do that and how long should it be?

    • admin Reply

      What a nice idea? Plan it for the time of day when he’s at his best and keep it to a timeframe that won’t tire him out.

  10. JoAnne Reply

    I will be 90 next January (2024). My daughter says we must have a celebration and I should start planning it! Our three children and spouses live across the country from us. Traveling in the winter is often very iffy. Weather conditions are hard to predict as our climate is changing. Should I choose a location closer to the East Coast close to them or near us in the SW? I think my daughter hopes I’ll chose some place like Portugal!

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