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Understanding Why Holidays Can Be Difficult for Older Adults

Holidays can be difficult for anyone, but this is especially true for older adults.

In a 2017 AARP Foundation survey titled “The Holiday Season: Joy, Love & Loneliness,” 31% of adult respondents said they felt lonely during the holiday season at some point during the past five years. Meanwhile, 41% of adult respondents said they have worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome. In comparison, 67% of those surveyed said they felt happy when thinking about spending time with family and friends during the holiday season.

As you can see, the holidays stir up a range of emotions for all of us. And while loneliness can happen at any time, these feelings seem to strike even harder during the holiday season. Just what is the cause of holiday loneliness in older adults and how can we overcome it?

Why Seniors Experience Holiday Loneliness

There are a number of reasons why seniors experience holiday loneliness. As we age, we’re more likely to experience loss. Loved ones fall ill and pass away. And the traditions and memories we once experienced during the holidays may not bring the same feelings of joy or happiness.

Energy levels and mobility also tend to decrease as we age, which may make it harder to participate in the holidays. In addition, living arrangements, neighborhoods and the availability of those we’ve historically celebrated with may change.

We all experience the holidays in different ways and loneliness can happen regardless of whether we are alone or with a spouse, family or friends. That said, there are several ways you can help an older adult boost their mood during the holidays and feel more connected.

4 Tips for Helping Older Adults Overcome Holiday Loneliness

Here are four ways you can help a senior overcome loneliness during the holidays.

1. Make Communication a Priority

One of the easiest ways to help an older adult overcome holiday loneliness is to reach out. It doesn’t matter how you reach out, so much as that you make the effort.

  • Make a phone call
  • Send a text message
  • Make a video call (via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or another video chatting service)
  • Record a video message (many phones, tablets and laptops have built-in cameras)
  • Send a letter (bonus points if the letter is handwritten)

Consider your past and present relationship with the person to whom you are reaching out. Will a text seem too informal? Is the prospect of a video call too imposing? Note that you can also reach out via phone call or text to start and then arrange a video call closer to the holiday.

2. Offer to Help Decorate Their Space

Assuming that you are able to visit, you may consider offering to help decorate their space.

Offer to bring some decorations over and ask if you can join them as they deck their halls. Easy-to-use decorations include:

  • Removable window clings
  • Garland and artificial wreaths
  • Floral arrangements

If you are unable to meet in-person, consider having a virtual decorating party with the senior in your life.

3. Prepare Baked Goods or Cook a Favorite Meal

While you need to consider dietary and health restrictions, especially for older adults, many of us associate the holidays with good food. More than a few of us would appreciate some baked goods, maybe paired with some nice coffee or tea, during the holidays. Or any time of year, really! You can also make a point of baking together, whether at your own home or at the residence where your loved one resides.

A special food delivery is also a great idea, whether homemade or takeout. Include a handwritten letter or note to go along with your delivery to add a nice personal touch.

4. Encourage a New Hobby

One of the best ways to overcome loneliness is to find something productive and healthy to take a person’s mind off of what is making them lonely. Great hobbies for older adults include fitness, gardening, gaming, cooking, jigsaw puzzles, model building, reading and listening to music.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that all of these things also make for great holiday gift ideas.

How Friendship Village Helps Seniors Fight Loneliness

A senior living community can be the perfect way for an older adult to make new friends and meet like-minded people with similar interests. At Friendship Village of South Hills, our premium services and amenities ensure that residents can celebrate the holidays surrounded by friends in a festive environment, or alone. We have options and our team members know how to help ensure the holidays are a little less lonely.

Know someone who might benefit from the senior living lifestyle? Contact us today — or pass along our information to a loved one — to discover what makes Friendship Village so special.

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