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Engaging Seniors in the Holidays

When you have an elderly family member or friend, it can be hard to plan holiday activities that everyone can enjoy. But reduced physical or mental abilities don’t mean that person can’t take part in the festivities. With a little planning, that senior family member will be able to enjoy and participate in the fun.

Older people are more likely to suffer from holiday depression due to the loss of their independence, or perhaps the loss of a spouse or other loved one. By paying attention to the reasons and causes for sadness, you can address it and find a way to overcome this feeling of loss. Simple things like aroma therapy with pine or other traditional holiday scents can make a big difference. Seasonal affective disorder can also cause depression in the winter, so try to plan some activities during the day or in a light filled environment. However, if you see signs of depression, like apathy, increased isolation, withdrawal, excessive fatigue or insomnia, your loved one may need some medical attention.

It’s important to keep seniors on their regular schedule for the holidays. Make sure medication is always taken correctly, and meals and bedtime are at usual times. Be cautious when serving alcohol which can interfere with medication or affect mood and behavior. Also provide your older guest with a quiet place to take a break from the action and noise or perhaps enjoy a nap. Make sure your home is comfortable and safe by removing throw rugs, extension cords or furniture that could cause a fall.

Do ask your older family member about their holiday memories from long ago. Recalling stories and details about holidays past can create a valuable link to your family’s history for everyone and help to bridge the gap between generations. Singing traditional carols and sharing old photographs and videos can help to evoke people and times gone by, and maybe form a basis for new family traditions.

Involve your older family member or friend in the holiday food planning and preparation if they are able. Ask for their recipes and help in making the traditional holiday dishes they always served. Even if mobility is limited, they may be able to peel vegetables, arrange the appetizer plate or help to decorate cookies. And don’t forget the tree. Older family members can help to trim the tree or just sort ornaments for others if they are unable to hang them. It always helps to have someone supervise and make sure lights and ornaments are spaced evenly, so put them in charge.

The best holiday time is the time you spend together, no matter what the activity. Watch your favorite holiday movie together or take a drive to see the lights and decorations in the neighborhood. Let the season of love and giving to others be a time to remember the people and holidays of the past, and to celebrate the old and new traditions you make together.

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