We expect the holidays to be a time of great happiness and excitement. This, however, isn’t always true for the elderly members of our families. Over the years, seniors experience a great deal of loss and this is the season that can bring a message of loss and loneliness to the forefront. But you can help your beloved elders through this potentially difficult time – and make their holidays a season of joy with the simple gift of time and loving consideration. Here’s how:
Read and Send Cards Together
Your elderly family members have probably been sending and receiving holiday greeting cards for many years. But the experience itself has been slowly changing. While sending cards may once have felt like an opportunity to touch base with far-away friends and family, over the years it can become an obligation that’s overwhelming and nearly impossible to complete.
The news your beloved elder receives in their mail is changing, too. As their peers age, holiday cards often include information about struggles with illness, spouses who have passed away and other difficulties associated with aging. Learning of these problems – or simply receiving less cards as the years go by – can turn those joyful holiday feelings into sadness and regret.
You can help. Ask your elder if they’d like to send holiday cards this year. Offer to organize cards, address them, mail them and even write personal greetings inside so all that’s left to do is sign each card. Then ask your elder to open their holiday mail with you, so you can offer loving support in case of bad news.
Plan Ahead and Schedule With Limitations in Mind
Holiday get-togethers are a great way to share a joyful family experience with seniors. But they can also be exhausting, even physically taxing for aging bodies, so plan your festivities thoughtfully. If you’re hosting a celebration, be sure to make a quiet, comfortable room ready in case your elder needs a break or a nap. Offer the opportunity for a rest several times throughout the day or evening.
No one brings as much joy and excitement to the holidays as small children – so if there are little kids in the family, by all means include them in the party! But those high voices can get piercing for aging ears and all that high energy can get overwhelming after an hour or two. So make certain there are quiet activities readily available for the kids. Perhaps your elder would enjoy reading a holiday story aloud, or listening to an older child read.
If you are planning a celebration in your elder’s home, be sure not to create dangerous obstacles or confusing situations. Although you may need to rearrange furniture to accomodate a small crowd, be aware of physical limitations seniors may have. Keep clear pathways between rooms and be especially mindful of bathroom access. Make your changes sparingly, as too many may cause your elder to become annoyed or even disoriented.
Share Your Time, Your Memories and Your Love
The stress and hype of our modern holidays can bury the real meaning of the season. But you know this is the time of year we gather together in love and thankfulness – and you learned it from your beloved elders! Make sure they know how grateful you are for these valuable lessons by sharing all you can.
Shake off your own holiday pressures and spend an afternoon looking at photos together. Update seniors with pictures of new additions to the families of relatives and friends. Attend a holiday worship service together if your elder is able. If leaving the home is too difficult, schedule a visit from a favorite pastor or other spiritual guide.
Fill your elder’s home with the scents of the season. A small cinnamon-scented wreath or the smell of warm mulled cider may trigger pleasant memories of past holidays. If your loved one begins to reminisce, relax, listen and enjoy! You’re creating your own memories that you’ll treasure forever. Above all, remind your elders how much you love them. It’s the very best gift you can ever give, and it’s completely free.
It’s far too easy for the holidays to become a time of loneliness and depression for the elderly. But with your loving help and support, seniors can once again experience the true joy of this wonderful season. We wish you and all your loved ones a most joyous holiday and the very happiest New Year!