As the holiday season approaches, it’s painted as a joyous time of celebration, where the sheer volume of activities and holiday cheer is enough to fill every moment with warmth. However, for many seniors, this time can bring about feelings of loneliness and isolation, even amid the festive lights and carols. But here’s the good news: there are plenty of simple ways to combat these negative feelings and make the holidays a time of joy once more.
For older adults, the Christmas holidays can be lonely. On one hand, there’s the holiday spirit and traditions; on the other, the risk factors like physical health limitations, a lack of social interaction, and memories of past holidays can lead to a feeling of isolation. AARP Foundation survey points out that a significant number of adult respondents experience these holiday blues.
The most effective ways to reduce feelings of sadness in seniors include increasing social connections. Spending time with family members is important, but what about those who are distant or unavailable? That’s when technology can lend a hand. A video call or even a regular phone call can go a long way in making an aging parent or friend feel less lonesome. Video chat is not just a substitute; it can be a new holiday tradition, allowing face-to-face interaction from miles away.
Furthermore, in recognizing the value of companionship during the holidays, why not schedule these calls as a recurring event? Regularly timed chats provide something special to look forward to and can establish a rhythm of anticipation and joy. It’s about creating a steady stream of connection that threads through the holiday season. Encouraging seniors to share stories of past holiday traditions or to show off their holiday decorations can be especially meaningful. These conversations can transform from simple check-ins into rich, tradition-honoring exchanges that celebrate the season and reinforce the bonds of family and friendship, no matter the distance.
It’s never too late to make new friends or start a new hobby. Senior living communities often have a dedicated team or activities director who understands the detrimental effects of social isolation. They can help by organizing holiday activities that cater to similar interests, helping seniors to become part of a community. From book clubs to virtual visit groups, being with like-minded people is a surefire way to uplift the holiday spirit.
In addition to these community-organized activities, local churches and religious organizations often host a variety of social gatherings during the holiday season, which can be a heartwarming way for seniors to engage with their community. These organizations provide a sense of belonging and an opportunity to celebrate the season in the company of others.
Whether it’s a holiday bake sale, a choir performance, or a communal dinner, these events can offer the perfect setting for older adults to forge new friendships and renew their holiday joy. Participating in these community-focused events not only helps seniors connect with new people but also allows them to contribute, share their wisdom, and feel valued — essential ingredients for a spirited and meaningful holiday experience.
Sending holiday cards is a tradition that can make both the sender and receiver feel connected. A handwritten letter can sometimes do a better job of conveying holiday wishes than a loud music card. Also, for those on a fixed income, crafting homemade cards or gifts is not just economical but also a great way to spend extra time and share holiday cheer.
Moreover, these personal touches add a layer of warmth and sincerity often missing in digital communications. Handmade gifts, whether they are knitted scarves, baked goods, or artfully assembled photo albums, carry a piece of the giver’s heart. For seniors, especially, these activities can be therapeutic, igniting creativity and offering a sense of accomplishment.
In the spirit of the season, simple acts like sharing a meal, offering a ride to a community event, or just spending time listening to someone’s stories can be incredibly impactful. These gestures, small in effort but large in meaning, build bridges across generations and reinforce the joy of human connection during the holiday season
Physical limitations don’t have to be the end of holiday fun. Engaging in gentle social activities like group walks can help maintain both physical and emotional health. For those who are homebound, a good book or engaging in holiday crafts can be a perfect pastime. And never underestimate the power of good food – cooking a meal together, either in person or via video, is a good time guaranteed.
For tech-savvy seniors, social media can be a lifeline. Regular posts on Facebook or Instagram can keep seniors in touch with family and friends, sharing holiday plans and photos. And for those who are new to these platforms, this could be a great time to learn – many communities and religious organizations offer tutorials as part of their holiday offerings.
Creating a new holiday tradition can be one of the best ways to combat feelings of isolation. Whether it’s a Christmas morning brunch via a virtual visit or joining a holiday-themed online course, these new customs can turn a difficult time into a season to look forward to.
The psychology today is clear: social connections can prevent the detrimental health effects of severe loneliness, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, and can even stave off early death. Therefore, if you notice signs of loneliness in a senior, reach out. Offer to spend quality time, whether it’s in person or through a screen. And remember, for seniors, sometimes the most important thing is to simply feel heard and remembered.
The holidays can be a great time, but also a difficult time for many. For senior populations, combating holiday loneliness is crucial. Whether through joining holiday parties, sharing a good meal, or just sitting down for a good chat, every gesture counts. This holiday season, let’s do a better job of including everyone in the warmth of our celebrations, making it a time of joy for all.