Older adults have been known to struggle with loneliness and isolation; this is especially true if they age in place and if they’ve lost a spouse, significant other and family members. The pandemic highlighted the almost epidemic proportions of the harmful impacts that isolation and loneliness can have on the health and well-being of seniors. At American House Senior Living, we welcome older adults with activities, socialization and ways to alleviate the health issues that arise from being lonely, and we have 10 ways to help seniors beat loneliness at the holidays.
We’ve put together a list of 10 ways to help seniors beat loneliness at the holidays, but these tips and strategies are important year round. The holidays seem to highlight the fact that an older adult is alone, and they can bring up sadness and could lead to depression.
In Michigan, once the time changes, we face dark, cold and long winter days. When the snow is blowing and the sun sets around 5 p.m., it makes it difficult for older adults to muster the energy to leave the house. In fact, many seniors who are aging in place may find themselves not leaving the house for days on end.
Don’t give into the idea that because it’s the holidays you must be “merry and bright.” You, or your aging loved ones, are allowed to feel your feelings, but we do want to help you feel happier and less isolated this season.
10 Ways To Help Seniors Beat Loneliness At The Holidays
To understand loneliness and its impacts on seniors, let’s talk about it before we get into the strategies to make the holidays and the long winter days less lonely and less isolating.
- Many older adults feel they have gone through enough change and loss, and because of that, they don’t want to give up the home they have known for years. For those seniors who age in place, their world can become very small; this is especially true if they’ve lost a loved one or their neighbors and family have moved away.
- Losing a loved one, spouse or significant other makes the holidays not shine as brightly for many people. The holidays may also bring up memories of the time and love they were once surrounded by, and that leads to heightened feelings of loneliness.
- Lack of mobility or lack of access to a car can mean a senior is housebound and may be reliant on the goodwill of neighbors or family members to get them to the grocery store, church or doctor’s visits.
Here are some of our favorite strategies to bring light and happiness back into the lives of your aging loved ones and help them beat loneliness at the holidays.
- Be patient and lend a willing ear. Whether you’re in a rush or if your aging parents have told you the same story over and over, give them time to re-tell the tale. Even if the senior in your life wants to complain for a while, give them a sympathetic ear – sometimes just knowing someone is listening is good for the heart and mind.
- Make sure you include your loved ones in holiday plans or shopping trips. Drop by and bring them a meal or a holiday treat. If possible, invite them to stay with you for a few days during the holidays. Ask them if there is somewhere they’ve been wanting to go but haven’t been able to and take them there.
- Pull out the photo albums and look through them together. Let them reminisce, and then make sure you’re taking new photos throughout the holidays – and throughout the year – and give them the gift of a new photo album of the new memories they’ve made with you.
- Take the pressure off your loved one who may be living on a tight budget and tell them the holidays are going to be about togetherness and making memories – not about gifts. If you give gifts, they need to make their lives more comfortable or happy, and you should give them at a time other than Christmas morning, for example. That way they won’t feel bad if they are receiving gifts but haven’t given any. Consider gifting your loved one an easy-to-use computer so you can stay in touch via video calls.
- For loved ones who live in one of our American House Senior Living communities, urge them to get involved in our holiday activities. Feel free to join us for the many events that we open to families. Reach out to the activity director in the community where your loved one lives and ask about the events you can attend.
- Bring a box of decorations and bring a festive flair to their apartment. Make certain none of the decorations pose a safety hazard. Plan to spend a few hours together or even a couple of weekends decorating. Turn the decorating time into a bonding activity, and pick up their favorite take-out food and enjoy a meal together.
- Speaking of food… bring their favorite foods or meals when you visit. If your loved one’s apartment is equipped with a kitchen and they enjoy cooking, bring the ingredients for a feast or to make some cookies and spend time together cooking, baking and enjoying the foods together.
- Get the senior in your life involved in the holiday celebrations. Ask them if they’d like to help with the planning, prep and day-of activities.
Surround them with the love of the family, and when you make them part of the prep and the overall celebration, you’ll truly give them a gift of family and feeling they’re making a difference. Give your aging loved one the gift of family and making memories this holiday season.
Give us a call today, schedule a tour and consider making American House your new “home sweet home.”
American House was founded in 1979 to enrich the lives of seniors and their loved ones in an environment that fosters independence, compassion, quality services and meaningful relationships. We provide a wide range of senior living options, including independent living, independent living with assistance, memory care services provided by a third party, respite stays and hospice in Dearborn Heights, Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Sterling Heights and Westland.
Call an American House Senior Living community near you today to schedule a tour of one of our beautiful facilities and ask questions to help put your mind at ease if you’re considering a move for an aging loved one, spouse or even for yourself.