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Celebrating the Holidays with the Elderly

Garcia & Artigliere

Celebrating the holidays with our elders requires some thought and care as the emotional time can prove to be stressful and confusing. Seniors’ emotional, physical and mental needs have to be minded.

Various steps can be taken to ensure that all ages enjoy the holidays this year.

  • Get nostalgic — Recalling memories and past events can prove to be especially beneficial for seniors. Sharing memories can be easier for elderly people who may have more difficulty recalling recent events. It’s therapeutic to engage in “life review,” which is actually a part of the aging process. Use triggers like videos, photo albums, music and TV programs to help bring about memory recall.
  • Yet avoid embarrassment — With short-term memory loss, reflecting on a more recent event or conversation can prove embarrassing for the senior if she or he doesn’t remember it. Avoid comments that would make the senior feel bad about forgetting, and quickly move on to another topic.
  • Provide a Quiet Space — Seniors can be overwhelmed easily. You want to keep them from being overstimulated by too many activities. Noise and bustling activity can cause confusion and fatigue. To avoid this, consider creating a quiet room for the elderly person where she or he can take a quick breather. Someone should be minding the senior at all times to ensure that she or he is comfortable, as well.
  • Plan a fun new activity — Seniors can benefit from doing something new during the holidays. So mixing up your traditional celebrations with a new activity can be enjoyable for everyone. For example, taking a drive to look at nighttime Christmas lights can be both fun and relaxing.
  • Plan activities with seniors in mind — Make sure to keep the senior involved during holiday celebrations. Don’t leave them in the living room while everyone gathers in the kitchen to prepare a meal. Make sure they have a role to play in any group-based activity for the holidays.
  • Counteract seasonal blues — Sadness can overcome people of any age during the holiday season, but the “holiday blues” can be especially difficult on seniors. Be mindful of a senior’s mental state this season, especially since holiday activities can trigger depression and feelings of loss in some people. Getting a senior with a disability out into the sunlight can actually help reduce the risk of depression, especially if they usually spend most of their time indoors.

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