The holidays are often a time for friends and family to get together and enjoy each other's company. In our modern world, we move so fast that we might forget to include our senior loved ones. They may not be involved in texting or other social media platforms that we use to communicate quickly with other family members. But during this time of year, paying attention to our aging parents, family members, friends, and neighbors is important.
If you have older friends or family members you can help them enjoy the December festivities by following these simple suggestions:
- Be sure to extend an invitation to them and include them in your holiday activities. They may not be as simple to invite as sending a group text–you may need to make a real phone call but they will love the chat–even if they don’t make it to the event!
- For older adults who live alone or do not get out of the house much, doing something new can be exciting and a great mood lifter. Consider taking them on a drive to look at holiday lights or invite them to your child’s holiday programs. These can be fun for everyone involved and give them plenty to think about.
- Just getting together to talk about holiday traditions and memories can be important during the later years of life. Looking at photo albums and family videos, or watching favorite classic holiday movies can encourage older adults to share their stories and experiences. Cooking a family favorite meal can also stimulate memories just from the aroma of the food. If they like apple pie, buy one at the store that requires you to bake it. Put it in their oven while you sit and talk. See if the aroma doesn’t bring up something in the conversation..like “boy that smells good, but not as good as your homemade pies mom–what was your secret”. Watch for the smile and discussion that follows.
- If you do not live close by, make an extra effort to communicate with your older family members and friends during the holiday season. They love getting photo cards, phone calls, or a letter. They can go back and reread a letter, look at the pictures on the card, show them to friends and enjoy them over and over. If you make a call set up a plan to talk to them again and put it on your calendar.
- Get your other family members to pitch in. Send them the phone number and ask them to give grandma a quick call. Often family members want to do this but are caught up in craziness as well. When you send them a text with grandma's phone number they can just touch it and the call is placed!
Finally when you do visit with elderly loved ones pay close attention to some of the signs that they may not be flourishing. Almost 90% of seniors report they want to age in their homes for as long as possible. With a little support, they can continue to thrive in place.
- Limited Mobility–being able to get up and walk is key to many things in life like good nutrition and hygiene.
- Nutrition–Speaking of nutrition make sure they have good food in their pantry and refrigerator. Check the dates to make sure things aren’t spoiled. Talk to them about any weight loss or other concerns about their diet–for instance, are they diabetic?
- Mental State–Do they show any signs of dementia or are they depressed? Seniors have to deal with many emotional issues like losing friends and family, isolation, and aging.
- Is their home safe and tidy? Take a look around to see if their home is safe–here is a list of items to consider when looking at the home.
Staying connected is especially important during the holidays. Loneliness is a serious and difficult emotion for anyone. Think about meaningful ways you can reach out to older adults in your life!