Many people find themselves busy during the holidays. As Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays approach, tasks begin piling up. In addition to work and your usual routine, you’ll likely think about travel plans, cooking, gift shopping, and holiday parties. As you excitedly prepare, you can easily forget about some of the less busy people in your life: your elders.
Socializing with elderly relatives and acquaintances may not make the top of everyone’s holiday to-do list. However, it’s an important part of the holidays that everyone should remember. This Thanksgiving, set aside some time to show your elders you appreciate them.
Your Elders May Be Lonely
Many aging adults experience loneliness throughout the year. Living alone, losing treasured friends, illness, and physical struggles can all result in social isolation and feelings of loneliness. Moreover, even when an aging adult has many connections, they may still feel lonely or unseen.
Feelings of loneliness may increase during the holidays for a number of reasons. An older person may remember lost loved ones more vividly during the holidays. They may also feel more excluded from current family activities. Though we don’t often think of loneliness as a health condition, it is definitely a significant health issue for older adults.
Prolonged loneliness may lead to other emotions like sadness, anxiety, or low self-esteem, which could develop into depression. Elderly people suffering from depression and loneliness have higher mortality rates than those who report satisfaction in their lives. Therefore, cheering someone up could lead them to enjoy massive health benefits. Research also shows that social engagement helps older people maintain their cognitive thinking skills, which decreases risk for cognitive decline.
Connection Makes A Difference
Social connection can help elderly adults in your community stay mentally and physically healthy. Around the holidays, take special care to notice any mood shifts in the elders you know, and support them however you can. Start at Thanksgiving, and show your elders how much you appreciate them in any of these 5 simple ways.
1. Incorporate Their Favorite Traditions
If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with grandparents or other elderly relatives, consider making an effort to incorporate their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. You could ask them for an old family recipe, decorate the table using an heirloom centerpiece, or play music by their favorite composer.
2. Reach Out Using Long-Distance Communication
If your loved ones are spread out geographically, reach out via long-distance communication to show your appreciation if you can’t be with your elders in person. Although they may seem small, letters, postcards, phone calls, and emails may all be welcome reminders of your love and support.
3. Talk To Them About Their Memories
If you’re lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with your elderly relatives in person, set aside some time to talk to them about their memories. You could sit down with Grandma and ask about her childhood Thanksgiving celebrations or holiday memories from all periods of her life. You could even record your conversation as part of an oral history project — with permission, of course.
4. Make Sure They’re Comfortable
Show appreciation for your elders by making them feel comfortable at family holiday celebrations. If a relative feels anxious in loud settings, for example, you could strive to limit ambient noise or even hold a separate celebration with a smaller guest list.
5. Volunteer In Your Community
The holidays can be a busy, stressful time for caregivers and elderly family members alike. Consider taking over caregiving duties for someone in your own life or even volunteering at your local elderly folks’ home. You can make a real difference in your community by volunteering with organizations that help senior adults. Offer to help with chores or meal delivery, or simply spend an afternoon getting to know an elderly neighbor over coffee.
No matter how you decide to show your appreciation for the elderly loved ones in your life, you can rest assured that they will appreciate the gesture. You may even learn a thing or two, too.
This holiday season, remember to spend time with all of your loved ones, including elderly friends and family members. By showing your appreciation and making your elders feel heard, you can help prevent loneliness and make your community a welcoming place for aging populations.
Featured Photo via vansguenette.