The holiday season can be a wonderful time for connection, gratitude, joy, and tradition.
A great deal of preparation and planning go into the holidays as a whole, but celebrating with ageing family members and loved ones requires some special attention. Thought needs to be directed towards determining how best to structure and navigate holiday gatherings, traditions, and activities that seniors will attend. The emotional and physical needs of seniors that need to be monitored and tended to don’t simply disappear when holiday cheer comes knocking, so some purposeful thought about all pertinent factors needs to take place in the process of planning holidays that will be spent with seniors.
Keep Health in Mind
There are some fundamental elements relating to the physical health and well-being of seniors that need to be consulted and considered when planning holiday gatherings and events. Essential practices and aspects of care that seniors receive in their day-to-day lives should be incorporated into holiday celebrations, in order to ensure that health is not compromised or forgotten in the excitement of the festivities.
Logistically speaking, try making arrangements in advance that will help to create and foster comfortable environments and transitions for seniors attending holiday celebrations. This will prevent them from feeling isolated, or as though they are a burden. Create a comfortable space, arrange transportation, respect physical limitations, and create options for places to seek rest or quiet if things get too overwhelming. A little planning ahead can make all the difference.
Navigating the food-oriented nature of many holiday gatherings can be challenging for many seniors who have health conditions that require them to adhere to specific dietary guidelines. Hosts should make sure that they are informed about what foods any seniors in attendance should avoid, and options should be made available that allow seniors to participate and enjoy holiday meals. This will prevent seniors from having to choose between feeling left out or compromising their health. Similarly, all other health-promoting practices such as medications and specific routines should remain as consistent as possible, despite the change of pace that the holidays may create. Ensuring that your loved one’s health is monitored and tended to will help to make the festivities less stressful and more enjoyable for all involved.
Think About Feelings
When it comes to the mental and emotional well-being of seniors, the holidays, while joyous and exciting in many ways, can be saddening and difficult in others. The infamous “holiday blues” are a very real thing. For many seniors, ageing has meant they have had to let go of some of the responsibilities associated with taking charge of holiday planning and hosting as a result of changes in health and capability. To have others take over these roles can help to relieve some stress, but can also feel like a painful loss. It is important, therefore, to keep seniors involved if they want to be, by allowing them to provide input and maintain control of some non-stressful tasks. Making sure that they continue to feel included, rather than totally ousted from a role they once valued is an important and respectful way to move forward. Allow them to create or adopt a new form of involvement and participation that is more comfortable and better suited to their changing abilities.
Just as roles and responsibilities can be shifted to accommodate the realities of our senior loved ones, so can the traditions that are key to the holiday season. Getting nostalgic and sentimental by sharing memories, listening to favourite holiday music, or putting up classic decorations can be very healthy and positive for seniors. It is also important, however, to acknowledge and respect that their memories may not be as strong as they once were. Creating new traditions that better fit the stage of life in which seniors find themselves can be an enjoyable way to make new memories and can prevent any embarrassment associated with not remembering all the details of existing traditions.
The holiday season can help to create opportunities to spend meaningful time with friends and loved ones, and provides an incredible setting in which to create new memories and revisit old ones. While celebrating the holidays with seniors may involve a few extra considerations, a little bit of attention and planning can help to make this festive time as special and enjoyable as possible for everyone.