Tackling Tough Times: Helping Seniors Get Through the Holidays with Cheer

The winter holidays are a time of joy, merriment, and celebration – but they can also be one of the loneliest times of the year. In fact, senior citizens often struggle through the season because loved ones may live far away, or the friends they’ve known for years have passed on. What should be a happy time becomes one of isolation and even depression. But there are several methods of helping seniors get through the holidays, so read on for some great tips!

Pick a card

Making out holiday cards to friends and loved ones can be a nice way to helping seniors get through the holidays. Poor eyesight, arthritis, and a host of other conditions can make writing and addressing cards and letters difficult for the elderly. A fresh pair of young eyes and hands can certainly help! That, and someone to organize their stamps, address book, and other items they need to communicate in an efficient and timely manner.
If the senior is up for it, they might enjoy sharing stories of their loved ones from over the years. Ask them to tell you about a happy or special memory with every card you write!

Get crafty

Another great way to cheer up seniors at this time of year is doing holiday crafts with them. This can be as simple as helping them make their own cards with drawings or paint, or getting elaborate and building gingerbread houses out of sweets. Other ideas include creating collages out of magazine clippings, making ornaments or decorations, and embellishing wreaths. Whatever you’re doing, make sure it’s in line with the senior’s physical and mental abilities. And remember – don’t be too critical of the process or of the final results. The focus here is on the seniors having fun and expressing themselves, not creating artistic masterpieces.

Trim that tree

If the senior in your life celebrates Christmas, they may get a kick out of helping you trim the tree. Of course, you may have to do most of the trimming while they assist, just to be on the safe side. They may also enjoy putting decorations on the tree or around their house – possibly ones they made themselves (see Get Crafty above). Ideas for seniors celebrating other holidays include cleaning and polishing the elaborate candelabras used for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, or engaging in other traditions that are particular to such occasions.

Make a joyful noise

Singing and listening to music is a wonderful way to welcome the holidays, and can be a delightful experience for seniors. For instance, the Institute on Aging has an annual Songs for Seniors event. This is an interesting twist on the old fashioned “sing-along.” Attendees climb aboard motorized classic San Francisco cable cars that make their way around the city. They visit nursing facilities, group homes, and private residences where seniors may be in need of cheering up. After five or six stops, the singers finish up the afternoon at the San Francisco Design Center and have a buffet dinner.
Other ideas for “making noise” include gathering and playing a collection of the senior’s favorite holiday music, or even having the seniors perform a few themselves. Music has been shown to have health benefits for seniors that go beyond the purely emotional. Patients who have been uncommunicative or non-responsive may start showing signs of life when they hear familiar music, such as in this video of a resident at a nursing home.

Helping seniors get through the holidays can be fun

As you can see, helping seniors get through the holidays can be a great deal of fun! No one should have to be alone and sad, especially during a long, dark winter. By reaching out to a person in need, you uplift both them and yourself, spreading holiday cheer and chasing away the blues. Making someone smile, connecting them with loved ones, and creating memories that will last a lifetime — now that’s what I call holiday spirit!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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