Bringing Cheer to Seniors This Holiday Season

seniors toast over a video call during holidays

For some, the holiday season can be less than merry and bright. While advertisements, light displays, music, catalogs and countless other media tell us it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” it can also be a time of loneliness and longing for happier times and loved ones lost.

How can we help our older friends and family experience joy and celebration over these next few months of a very unusual year?

Teach Them Technology
Many seniors discovered the incalculable benefits of technology during the pandemic. They’re using social media, email, text, facetime, and videoconferencing to engage in activities and connect with others. They’re going online to learn new things, play games, and virtually visit everything from Mt. Everest to the Great Barrier Reef.

However, the digital age can still be intimidating to those who didn’t grow up with it. Words like “stream,” “cloud” and “surf” mean something entirely different to members of previous generations. That’s why it’s crucial to teach a senior friend or family member how to use basic online tools during this time of social distancing.

If in-person instruction isn’t possible, a step-by-step written guide is the next best thing and also something that can be referenced as often as necessary. Taking the time (and sometimes having the patience) to ensure that elderly loved ones are equipped with a fundamental knowledge of digital technology – in advance of that Zoom call – can mean the difference between social engagement and isolation this holiday season.

Once your senior has a handle on how to leverage online communication tools, reward them by arranging virtual visits, games, events, etc. It could just be the best gift of all.

Put a Stamp on It
People are taking a renewed interest in “snail mail” while sheltering in place. The simple act of going to the mailbox to see what’s physically inside provides a little lift in the day as well as a welcome break from the barrage of on-screen communications. Seniors especially appreciate the good old-fashioned letters and Christmas cards of yore, and nothing beats a personalized, hand-written message to show that someone really cares.

Send Edible Signs of Love
Holiday baking is a tradition for many families, and cookie exchanges are popular social events among friends. Although such gatherings will need to be put on hold or held virtually this year, we can still warm up the oven and fill our homes with the tantalizing aroma of home-baked goods. Why not share these edible symbols of love with the seniors in your life? Not only will they taste and smell delicious, they can be beautifully packaged as well. (If your older loved one resides in a senior care community, be sure to check its policies on outside food items.)

Share Life Stories
How often have we regretted not knowing enough about a parent or grandparent while they were still here? This holiday season, encourage your senior to share their experiences in life, their favorite memories, lessons learned, joys, challenges, careers, travels, etc. The questions are endless, and most older people are thrilled to be asked and eager to open up. For those with cognitive issues, favorite holiday songs can be played or familiar photos shown, evoking positive memories and feelings.

Entire programs are devoted to helping seniors record and share their life stories, but the same effects can be gained from a do-it-yourself legacy project. Audio- or videotaping a senior, perhaps with prepared “interview” questions, makes a wonderful memento for him or her, you, and all of posterity. Imagine the joy on your family’s faces if you produced copies and presented them as gifts!

Tell Them Why You Value Them: Be Specific
More than other populations in our youth-obsessed culture, seniors can feel less than valued and appreciated. While we might tell them we love them, we don’t often say why. This holiday season, be explicit about exactly what you value in your elderly loved one. I love that you’re so wise and always give good advice…I appreciate that you listen to me and don’t judge…You’re so special to me because you are smart, funny and caring…I treasure the times we’ve spent together doing xyz…

Befriend a Senior
While the pandemic has hindered programs that connect volunteers with seniors in need of company, there are still ways to reach out to older adults outside of family and friends. Introduce yourself to older neighbors or contact senior care communities in your area to see how you might safely connect with residents. Search “befriend a senior” on the web or click here for further opportunities. Intergenerational relationships are beneficial for everyone. Even those without older relatives nearby can share meaningful bonds across the ages.

The Holidays at Barclay Friends
We have been creating novel ways to keep residents active and engaged. The holidays are certainly no exception; our team is busily planning safe festivities to cheer our entire Barclay Friends family. From gratitude cards, facetime and photos with family to a Christmas tree decorating contest, decked out halls and scrumptious meals with all the trimmings, we’re ringing in the holiday season with joy and thanksgiving.

Looking to transition into a Senior Living Community?

Barclay Friends is accepting applications. Wrap up the year with brand new possibilities!