I recently heard renowned Vipassana meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein say something extremely interesting and thought I'd relay it. Here's what he said:
"Whenever a generous impulse arises in your mind – to give money, to check in on a friend, to send an email praising someone's work – act on the impulse right away, rather than putting it off until later."
This is gold, people.
We all intend to do this, but often don't; we all fail to act on such urges at least some of the time. This failure isn't because we don't want to do it, or because the recipient doesn't deserve it, or because we have ill-formed intentions, and it's definitely not out of mean-spiritedness. More often, it's because of some weird sense of needing "to be in charge of" our time and schedule. I tell myself that I'll get around to that generous impulse once my urgent work is out of the way, once the bleeding neck has stopped, once I have enough spare time to do it really thoughtfully. Or maybe I need to research the whole thing a little more and really work on the perfect response....
But the only acts of service --of time, money, attention, or any other resource -- that count are the ones you actually make happen. Your friend, colleague, or relative might well appreciate a nicely crafted message of praise more than a hastily worded one, but the latter is vastly preferable to the likely alternative, which is that you'll never get around to sending that message and the whole impulse just dies.
Don't put this off -- especially where the elderly in your life are concerned but it's equally true regardless of age: tell them now, the minute you think of it.
A very useful practice that reduces suffering in the world and ushers in, often, much-needed joy.