The holidays are fast approaching, one after another, and this is a season that many of us consider one of the most joyful of the year. Yet, for many seniors, the holiday season is anything but merry.
As family and friends gather, seniors can be reminded of those who are missing. Perhaps a spouse has passed away. Many seniors have experienced the loss of close friends and family members at their age. Even as spending time among loved ones brings happiness, it can also be a reminder of the missing faces among the crowd. The holidays can be a painful reminder that all is not as it once was.
Loneliness can become more intense during the holiday season, and studies have shown that loneliness can be harmful to our health, especially among older adults.
What can we do to bring comfort?
The most important gift we can give the elders in our lives—is time. Spend the time. Listen to the memories they have to share and those memories will become a treasured part of yours to keep. Include your elders in family activities, even if it is just to sit nearby.
Decorate their space with cheer. Whether the home of the senior or the common space they share with others, as in the day health center, putting up festive and colorful decorations can bring a smile. If able, include your elder in the decorating, creating decorations, or advising where to arrange what and how.
Bring seniors into the kitchen. Nothing brings comfort like the wonderful smells of a holiday feast in preparation. Perhaps your elder has a favorite recipe to share or to teach the next generation how to prepare. Bake and decorate cookies together. It’s also a great time to share stories and laughter.
Write and read holiday greetings together. Especially for older generations, writing and receiving holiday greeting cards have been a large part of the holiday season and strengthen the connections made with family and friends near and far. Greetings often come with updates, and for older generations, those updates can sometimes include news of someone’s passing—but they can also bring happy news of births and other life events. Take time to read and write greeting cards together.
Allow for animal love. It has long been known that pets lift moods and offer healing therapy. Whether in the senior’s home or at a gathering, bring a pet who has a gentle manner around the elderly and stand back—allow the joy to happen. Studies have shown that petting and snuggling cats and dogs lightens depression and offers a sense of soothing companionship.
Schedule phone calls or video visits with faraway family and friends. In-person visits are always best, although in a time of a COVID pandemic, phone calls and video visits can be safer. Arranging those connecting moments with loved ones can make all the difference in a lonely day. Bring children into the chat. Seeing and hearing children can bring about a sense of happiness in the elderly.
In whatever way you choose to help the elderly enjoy the holiday season, keep in mind the precautions we must take during the pandemic—social distancing, wearing protective masks, hand washing—and enjoy the festivities together safely.
Please contact Senior Care Partners for help in letting your loved one age at home.