The holidays are a busy, hectic time of year. There are gifts to buy, traditions to observe, and loved ones to visit. It is important amidst all of that activity that you are purposeful about reaching out and including the seniors in your life, especially the ones that have limited or no independent mobility.
The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for seniors. It is easy for loneliness to creep in when you are unable to get out of your house or participate in the holiday activities the way you once enjoyed. It can also be hard for seniors who have recently lost a spouse or friends and are experiencing the holidays without them for the first time.
Even a slight increase in feelings of isolation affect our human psyche. It is not uncommon to hear seniors say things like, “I don’t want to be a bother,” or “I know everyone is really busy.”
Here are a few ways to make seniors feel valued and wanted around the holiday season.
1. Invite a senior over for dinner or ask them to teach you to cook their favorite recipe.
One of the best ways to kill more than one bird with a single stone is to invite a senior over for dinner during the holiday season or ask them if they’d be willing to teach you how to prepare a recipe that they’re well-known for.
One of the most important things you can do for a senior is to make them feel like they are still an important part of the world around them. By having them over for a meal or to teach you how to make a particular meal or dessert, you give them something big to look forward to and anticipate as well as make them feel like there is something they still have to offer the world. Asking a senior to teach you something, anything, is a great way to let them know that they are valuable and an important part of your life.
2. Ask a senior to tell you about the Christmases growing up.
There is a mounting cultural call for a return to simplicity and remembering the way things used to be. An effective method of remembering the seniors in your life is to take them out to breakfast, lunch, or to just sit with them in their home, and to ask them about the Holiday season when they were growing up. What were their family traditions? What was gift-giving like? What are their most memorable moments? What about those Christmases do they miss?
Seniors sometimes feel like their opinions are overlooked or undervalued. By intentionally seeking them out for advice or guidance, a senior feels needed. Feeling needed and wanted can go a long way toward improving their physical and psychological health both in the short term over the holidays and the long term moving forward.
It’s also important to note that in situations where these friendships and mentorships take shape, both individuals, the mentor and the mentee, express feelings of deep connection and more meaning in their lives.
3. Show Up to Work and Laugh.
Many seniors miss out on the Christmas spirit simply because they don’t have the energy or physical ability to do the things that need done during the holiday season.
Take a day or two and show up to work and visit with a senior. Get out their personal decorations and help put them up. Make sure to ask if there is a particular place they would like them. Often, there are traditional places that each piece goes for sentimental reasons.
Ask about the stories behind personal ornaments and the traditions behind unusual items. Put on Christmas music and talk about their personal favorites. If the senior is able, ask if they’d like to go shopping. Be careful not to act like you’re doing them a favor. Instead, let them know that you’d enjoy their company.
Holidays are busy, and it’s easy to forget about the people that make the holidays worth celebrating. In many cases, the seniors in our lives have been an integral part of making the holidays a special time of year for us growing up. It’s important that we remember them as they lose some of their independence and have an increased need for others to take the relational initiative, that we’re there to meet that need just as they met our needs all of those years.