The media we consume portrays the holiday season as a time of joy. A time to gather with family and friends, reflecting on all the good things in life. However, the holidays can be difficult for many of us, especially as we grow older.
In fact, all of the emphasis on how great of a time we should be having can lead to feelings of loneliness and guilt. 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. Meanwhile, 41% reported having worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome.
Loneliness during the holidays can happen at any age, but for older adults, there is a greater chance that they may not be able to spend time with family members or loved ones. And some of the holiday traditions seniors once enjoyed may not bring the same feelings of joy or happiness.
Why Seniors Experience Loneliness During the Holidays
There are many reasons why seniors experience holiday loneliness. As we age, we’re more likely to experience loss. Loved ones fall ill and pass away. Our own health may decline. Energy and mobility levels also tend to decrease as we age. This is true for even the healthiest of individuals, which may make it harder to participate in the holidays in the way we want to. More recently, the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extra stress on seniors in winter months.
The truth is, we all experience the holidays in different ways. Loneliness can happen regardless of whether we are alone or with a partner or family and friends. If you believe an older adult is feeling lonely or isolated during the holidays, there are ways you can make a difference.
5 Tips for Helping Older Adults Manage Holiday Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness are not always easy to identify at the surface level, even in loved ones. However, almost all of us experience these feelings at some point in our lives. There are many ways you can help an older adult deal with holiday loneliness, requiring just a little bit of your time and energy, and some kindness. Here are five tips to help get you started.
1. Let Them Know You Care
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. Making a phone or video call, or even simply sending a text message, can show someone that you care.
You should consider your past and present relationship with the individual to whom you are reaching out. Will a text seem too informal? Is the prospect of a video call overly imposing? Recording a video message or sending a handwritten letter may be more meaningful for certain connections.
2. Offer to Help Decorate Their Space
Assuming that you are able to visit, you may consider offering to help decorate their space. It’s possible that the senior in question may actually want to do some of the things that a holiday entails, but aren’t physically able to do it on their own. Make an offer to bring some simple decorations over. Easy-to-use decorations include window clings, garland and artificial wreaths.
If you are unable to meet in-person, consider having a virtual decorating party instead. Share stories about your favorite decorations. Or laugh at some of the more comical holiday decorations you have found.
3. Give the Gift of Baked Goods
While you need to consider dietary and health restrictions, many of us associate the holidays with eating good food in addition to spending time with family and friends. These days, recipes for healthier versions of holiday classics are just a quick internet search away.
The older adult in your life may appreciate a special food delivery, whether homemade or ordered. Include a handwritten letter or note to add a nice personal touch. It can also be fun to mix things up and enjoy food that maybe isn’t directly related to the holiday.
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.
As an added bonus, all of these things also serve as inspiration for holiday gift ideas.
5. Form a New Holiday Tradition
What better way to help an older adult overcome loneliness than forming a new holiday tradition — or even a series of traditions. Maybe you visit the senior in question and get outside for a walk, weather permitting, followed by some hot chocolate. Thankfully the weather is pretty nice year-round here in Florida! Feel free to go beyond typical holiday activities, as well.
How Village on the Green Helps Seniors Reduce Loneliness
At Village on the Green, our team members plan special events and activities, alongside other ways to make our residents feel special during the holidays. In fact, a senior living community can be the perfect situation for an older adult to make new friends and meet people with similar interests.
In addition, our premium services and amenities ensure that residents can celebrate the holidays in a more social atmosphere if they choose to do so. If a resident prefers to spend some time alone during the holidays, that’s perfectly fine too. We have options.
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 Village on the Green so special.