8 Great Ways to Reduce Loneliness and Bring Cheer to Seniors this Holiday Season
As many seniors face the holidays alone this year, look for simple ways you can help your loved ones feel included and special.
Throughout this year, we all learned new and thoughtful ways to celebrate holidays and milestones. But what about the big holiday season at the end of the year?
Amidst the decorations, presents, and good cheer, this year the holidays bring special challenges to seniors and their families.
Even in the easiest of circumstances, it is normal to having ups and downs during the holidays. This is especially true for seniors. Along with good cheer and fun, the holidays can also highlight feelings of loss and loneliness. While those feelings are normal, they require care and attention, especially this year. Studies show that social distancing has been particularly challenging for seniors, and those challenges can impact their health and wellbeing.
Fortunately, there are wonderful ways to help your senior loved ones feel a sense of belonging and community this year, even when you can’t be there in person. And, they’ll make you feel good, too!
Read on for practical tips to help your senior loved ones manage the holiday season during the pandemic.
A Shift in Mindset: From Loneliness to Unity
Many caregivers and families worry about their senior loved ones feeling lonely or down during the holidays this year, while experiencing some disappointment or sadness themselves. The most important thing to remember is that we are all in this together.
While modified holiday celebrations may not be the first choice, they are an opportunity to shift your mindset from “I” to “we.” When you worry about a loved one’s loneliness, try shifting from “what can I do?” to “what can we share?”
The ups and downs of this year’s holiday season are not a problem to be solved by you alone. Instead, they are an experience to be shared together, and a time to let your senior loved ones know that they are understood and valued.
8 Ways to Include Senior Loved Ones During this Holiday Season
- Send pictures, lots of pictures!
- Engage Their Senses.
- Lean on Technology.
- Celebrate Everything.
- Send Special Surprises
- Get Creative.
- Create Community.
- Be Present.
Send pictures of your family, including pictures of daily life, kids, grandkids, and pets. For seniors who have a quick way of receiving digital photos, make a point of sending pictures in the moment. Keep the idea of sharing and inclusion top of mind.
Send printed photos, too. A printed photo that your loved one can easily place in a highly visible spot will remind them that they are loved. (Online services that print and send digital photos are affordable and easy to use.) A digital frame loaded with family photos makes a great gift, too.
Loneliness is a feeling, and it can be eased by offering ways to focus on more pleasant sensations. Engage their senses by delivering a favorite holiday treat, video or audio recordings, or a cozy scarf or sweater that they can wrap around themselves like a big hug.
Here at Sunnyside Manor, one of the great surprises of this year has been just how quickly seniors pick up on using new technology, and how eager they are to learn it! Many families have found success in offering their senior loved ones tablets with a limited number of simple communication apps in place. There are also tablets geared specifically toward seniors, like the Grandpad. A detailed guide to setting up a tablet for seniors can be found here.
When the technology is in place, the world opens to virtual parties, gatherings with friends and family, online classes, live-streamed religious services, and more.
For many people, this year has brought about a shift in priorities. We’ve come to appreciate the little things and the big things, and to cherish time with loved ones. We all learned new ways to celebrate (virtually and with socially distant parades), and learned that it is worth celebrating everything, not just the holidays. Include your senior loved ones as you celebrate birthdays, graduations, milestones, and successes small and large.
One of the most fun features of the holiday season is the combination of much-loved traditions and special surprises. You never know what will turn up in the mail or under the tree! Plan fun surprises for your loved one, like a special delivery of their favorite holiday snack “just because,” or a spontaneous family holiday parade outside their window.
Encourage creative hobbies and projects that can be done together remotely, like creating ornaments or a family tree. Drop off supplies, then get online to create together.
The opposite of isolation is community. There are many ways to create community for your loved one. Help organize virtual calls among your loved one’s friends and more distant family. Or, check for virtual or socially distanced outreach visits from their civic or religious groups.
The number one antidote to loneliness is feeling that you are heard and understood. Really listen. Listen to their hopes, fears, and stories, and ask them questions that show you are interested. Whether you are there in person, by phone, or online, give your loved one your full attention. Turn off notifications on your phone, and be as free from distractions as possible. Your full presence is the best present you can give.
Remember: even when you can’t be together, you are in this together. The focus on sharing and appreciation can help brighten everyone’s holiday.
All of us at Sunnyside Manor wish you a happy and safe holiday season, and a healthy new year. Stay safe and take good care.
Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor
Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, we are here to help. Begin with our “Getting Started” guide. Times have changed, and so have our admissions protocols. Please call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.
Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.