Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!  This is indeed the time of year when we are expected to be happy. Holiday music is everywhere, and shop windows are decorated with everything wintery and jolly. In the article, How to Reduce Loneliness in Elders around the Holidays, the website, AgingCare.com writes, “There is a lot of pressure on people to enjoy themselves during the holidays. The reality, however, is that many people feel increasingly isolated and unhappy during this season of goodwill, and elders can have an especially hard time.

While aging can bring wisdom and experience, there are inevitable losses that even the healthiest seniors face. Loved ones and friends fall ill and pass away. Energy and mobility levels often decrease, resulting in feelings of lost independence and opportunities. Neighborhoods change over time, leaving even those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling lonely. The focus on family, friends, and togetherness during this time of year can actually bring melancholy feelings to the forefront.”

Encouraging them to talk, and really listening to them is one of the most important things anyone can do for an older adult during the holidays – or anytime. But, according to the online article, Getting Help with the Holiday Blues, “…mental health professionals say it’s difficult for many seniors to talk about their holiday blues. They may feel that they don’t want to dampen the mood for others, or they may not want to admit that they feel depressed during what should be a happy time. You can help by getting your elderly relative or friend [or client] to talk about it.” The simple act of sharing ones feeling with another person can help improve mood and can be used as an opportunity to bring the conversation around to happier memories.

Other suggestions that can help seniors feel connected and combat depression during the holidays are:

  • Connect with the past: Look at photo albums and talk about happy memories. Ask the senior to tell you stories about what they remember from their past.
  • Take a walk outside: The fresh air and a little exercise can have a significant impact on mood. Plus, going somewhere where the older adult can enjoy the holiday sights, smells and music can help them feel connected to others and less alone.
  • Attend community events: Participating in activities outside the house such as those offered by senior centers or libraries can help the older adult feel more connected to a community. If the elder is in a long-term care facility, encourage them to participate in the holiday programming that is typically offered.

Other suggestions from How to Reduce Loneliness in Elders around the Holidays include:

  • Shop: Help shop for and write holiday cards to friends or family.
  • Decorate: Help add decorative touches to their home or room in the long-term care facility. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations, so be sure to listen to their stories and ask about special items.
  • Cook: Bake traditional baked goods or treats with your loved one, if possible. If they reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, bring treats on your visits for your elder to enjoy and share with their friends.
  • Set the mood: Make their dinner table special. Whether [the senior] lives at home or in a facility, try to make their dining table festive with seasonal colors, themes, and flavors.
  • Spend time: The most important thing you can do to help a senior feel loved and included this season is to spend time with them. Look at family photos, watch home videos or holiday movies, listen to seasonal music, or do crafts together.

The online article, Tips for Combating Elderly Depression during the Holidays, offers an important conclusion: “The bottom line is to encourage loved ones to stay active, involved and engaged in family and community events whenever possible. These activities don’t have to be big, but can be anything that helps make them feel a sense of belonging and provides them with the ability to continue contributing to family and community well-being, regardless of age.”

photo credit: ☃☃It’s Winter Out There☃☃ Getting In The Spirit-HSS via photopin (license)