Although the holiday season can be a happy and joyous time for most of us, many older adults and seniors find the season hectic, confusing and even depressing depending on their mental, physical and emotional conditions. The good news is that we can all help contribute to a happier season for the older adults and seniors in our lives by doing the following:
- Explore old memories. Older adults and seniors love to share happy, humorous, and light-hearted memories. It can also be a wonderful way for them to interact with the “younger crowd” at a family event since many young people love to hear “what it was like when they were my age”.
- Plan. Anticipate the fact that the elders in your family may need a break from all the commotion and loud noise. Keep an eye on them, and escort them to a quiet room where they can relax for a little while and perhaps have a one-on-one conversation with a single member of the family.
- De-clutter. Remove unnecessary clutter items which could prove to be obstacles and even potentially dangerous if someone were to trip and fall.
- Be thoughtful. Many older adults experience memory loss, so keep this in mind when you’re telling stories or rehashing events from the past. If it appears as though a senior family member does not remember, don’t make a point of singling him or her out in the crowd.
- Spend quality time with the elders in your life. There is a lot to learn from them, and they will appreciate the time you spend with them. Perhaps go for a winter “Christmas light watch”, or take a drive into old neighbourhoods, or go window shopping to see the festive displays.
- Include everyone. Seniors like to feel useful and needed. Even elders with physical limitations can be given a simple task to help out with meal preparation such as greasing a cooking pan, peeling vegetables, placing napkins on the table, and so on.
- Extend invitations. For those of us who have seniors or older adults who are alone, invite them over for a meal. Keep them included in your life and make them feel connected.
- Fight the downside. Even though you may not be aware of it, depression in elders is very common and is increasing in prevalence. Furthermore, feelings of depression are even more common during the holidays. If you feel as though an elderly family member or friend may be feeling depressed this holiday season, spend time with him or her, and don’t ignore any inclinations you may have about their unhappiness.
- Be in the light. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a depressive illness provoked by reductions in sunlight. Find ways to participate in outdoor activities to take in the natural winter sunlight whenever you can.
- Help elders in your life by monitoring their medication intake and alcohol consumption. During the hectic holiday season, it can be easy for seniors to forget to take their medications or to become wrapped up in the festivities and drink a little too much. Look out for their best interests at all times.
Remember, the holidays are a time for giving and thoughtfulness. Keep your loved ones in mind and help them have a wonderful holiday with you.