4 Ways to help seniors feel more included in your holiday celebrations
The holidays can be hectic.
There’s gifts to be opened, nonstop cooking and getting to your holiday destination. On top of that, it might be years since you’ve seen certain people in your family, so everyone feels pressure to drop everything for whoever has your attention at the moment.
It can be easy to forget that some seniors can feel left out of holiday celebrations.
I know that in my family, whoever is the loudest person is the one who gets the so-called talking stick. This can leave quieter family members and older adults feeling excluded and not part of the holiday revelry.
How can we make sure seniors are enjoying themselves during the holidays and feel included?
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you plan your gathering.
1. Ask for seniors to help plan the festivities
When I got married a couple years ago, I asked my grandmother if she would help my friends and me arrange the flowers for the reception. She felt included and we both enjoyed the designated time to spend with each other, versus trying to connect during a 100-person party the next day.
Weddings are similar to holidays. You can only control so much of what happens. But you can plan for the ideal scenario.
Ask your loved one if there are any traditions they’d like to uphold that you didn’t know about, or if they have any preference for what dishes you make for your holiday celebration.
Maybe they want to make a dish themselves, or “supervise” a certain recipe that’s passed down from generations.
One last thing: ask them if they’d like help getting ready for the holiday event. You could help style their hair or pay for a salon appointment. If your senior wants to dress up, ask everyone else in the family to do the same.
2. Turn down the volume
As I mentioned above, it can be easy for seniors to feel left out of the holiday festivities if they feel overwhelmed and like there’s no space for them to engage with anyone.
But you and others in your family also want to have a good time. Maybe you partake in the merriment by drinking some champagne and putting on the tunes. Good for you!
Just don’t forget to make some space for any older adults to feel comfortable.
This could mean playing some mellow jazz during dinner and making the table a more intimate setting instead of spreading everyone out.
Some other tips:
- If you watch a movie as a group, turn on the subtitles if needed
- Ask kids to spend time with the grandparents without the TV blaring in the background
- Keep in mind whether your loved one can fully hear on each side, and if not arrange the seating accordingly
With a little more awareness, older adults can feel respected AND part of the fun.
3. Bring back family traditions
For some seniors, the holiday season can bring up the “holiday blues.” The holidays can highlight feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression no matter your age. These emotions are often amplified for seniors, especially if their family lives far away, if they lost a spouse or live alone.
If you expect them to join you for Hanukkah, Christmas or a different holiday, ask them if there’s any aspect of their adolescence or lost tradition that they want to bring back this year.
It could involve…
-Watching their favorite holiday movie (Christmas Vacation anyone??)
-Playing a classic card game
-Putting on a living room performance, or making the kids entertain everyone else
Need some inspiration? It’s always fun to look back on old family photos, especially for the holidays. Man did people dress up back then!
You could bring back those giant holiday sweaters or string popcorn around the tree.
Whatever it is, should give you warm and cozy holiday feelings. Ever heard of the Danish concept of hygge? Check out our recent blog on how seniors can bring some warmth into their lives.
4. Incorporate story time
Everyone loves a good story, especially when it involves people you know.
You can ask the senior in your life to come prepared, or make it more of an organic event.
It can be a formal or a casual affair depending on if there are props involved and how organized your family is.
A photo album can serve as a great prop to the story, so you might want to dig out those albums from your basement or ask the senior in your life to try and find theirs and offer some assistance.
Setting the mood for everyone to listen is what will make the difference in an engaged or tuned-out audience.
We all know how distracting technology can be, so turn off the TV, dim the lights and plug in the tree. If you feel like it’s important, you can ask everyone to put away their phones for the night.
Then put on some Bing Crosby, make some Christmas cocktails or brew tea, and set the stage for your loved one to tell their story.
Even if your loved one doesn’t live nearby, there are plenty of ways to include seniors in your holiday celebration.
Thinking the senior in your life might need caregiving assistance sooner rather than later? Here’s a guide on how to get the discussion started.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.