Joy is what everyone hopes to feel during the holiday season, but unfortunately that is not the reality for many people, especially older adults. At a time when people are supposed to be sharing love and laughter with their friends and family, there are seniors who find themselves feeling lonely and isolated during the holidays. If you know someone in your life who may be dealing with these issues, now is an opportunity to make a difference in their life.
3 Reasons Holidays Can Be Hard for Seniors
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently conducted a study where 31% of respondents said they had felt lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years. It’s clear that loneliness around the holidays is not an unusual phenomenon, but to be proactive about supporting the people who struggle with it, you must first understand the sources of these feelings.
1. Long-Distance Loved Ones
Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but sometimes there is only so much distance a heart can bear. It’s natural for children to venture out as they get older, but having family spread across great distances can make getting together for the holidays a challenge. Seniors who don’t live close to their family can end up having to spend the holidays alone, which can leave them vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.
2. Travel Limitations
Not everyone can afford to travel for the holidays. Flying or driving to join family celebrations can be difficult for older adults on a fixed income. Even if finances aren’t a concern, traveling during the winter months can be stressful and exhausting, especially with potentially hazardous weather conditions. If you are traveling to or from the Midwest, snow and ice can make road conditions for even a short drive treacherous.
3. Changing Traditions
Traditions are a hallmark of the holidays. In difficult times, they can be like a comfort food or a warm blanket, especially for older adults who have spent years cultivating cherished memories celebrating their family’s traditions. But traditions don’t always endure. Even though change is a natural part of life, changing traditions can be difficult for seniors, and they may not feel as much joy around the holidays as they once did.
Tips for Helping Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
Now that you have a better understanding of how and why loneliness can impact seniors during the holiday season, there are a number of steps you can take in your own life to help a friend or family member feel reinvigorated by the holiday spirit this year.
Take the Initiative
It’s going to take more than mailing a holiday card to make a meaningful difference in the life of someone struggling with loneliness and depression around the holidays. So try to reach out and engage them in more meaningful ways. If you’re not able to spend time with them in person, video call them so you can at least be face to face virtually. Check in with them regularly, or talk to mutual friends and family about having them reach out, as well. You want to make sure they know they have loved ones who are here for them and care about them.
Embrace Holiday Traditions
Are there holiday traditions that you’ve let fade into the past? Try bringing them back. Seniors can be sentimental about the past, but rather than reminiscing about forgotten traditions, you can help stir those familiar feelings by creating new memories. It could be as simple as decorating the Christmas tree together or driving around to see the houses that are decorated for the holidays. Figure out what traditions mean the most to them and make them part of your celebration.
More Inclusive Celebrations
Speaking of celebrations, yours don’t always have to be exclusive. There is nothing wrong with small gatherings around the holidays, but remember that this time of year is about spreading cheer. Consider who in your life you might be leaving out when planning your next holiday get-together – maybe a senior neighbor, for instance. And if you’re going to invite more people, make sure they feel welcome and plan an afternoon or evening that is going to make them feel included and engaged.
Help Embrace Changes
If you think a change of pace might re-energize the older adult in your life who is struggling around the holidays, plan activities that introduce them to new opportunities, taking into account any interests or passions they may have.
How a Community like Beacon Hill Helps Seniors Fight Loneliness
Our goal at Beacon Hill is to make sure every resident feels right at home the moment they arrive. Not only does our staff provide for all their wants and needs, but we have a community of friendly and fun-loving residents who welcome newcomers with open arms. Community life at Beacon Hill is about creating opportunities for residents to live a fulfilling life, from building meaningful relationships with friends and neighbors to taking advantage of countless activities and amenities. Joy is an essential ingredient to our community every day.
If the enriching community life at Beacon Hill could help someone you know struggling with loneliness, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re available and ready to answer any questions you have. Contact us today to discover for yourself what makes Beacon Hill so special.