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‘Tis the season to be jolly, or at least it’s supposed to be. Next to all the festive music playing in the stores, bright lights and decorations, and happy families shopping for presents, it’s almost as we are all expected to be happy just because everybody else is. However, for those who don’t have anybody to share this holiday with, the Christmas season can take on a whole different meaning.
Although ageing does have its undeniable benefits, such as the wisdom and experience, it has its downsides as well. The neighbourhoods will change, and most of your loved ones will either pass away or move too far away to visit. And even if they don’t, people are often too occupied with their youngest family members to even think about the oldest.
Plus, your energy levels will not be as high as they used to be, so you won’t exactly be able to travel much and celebrate the holidays wherever you want. Also, your pets, as loving as they can be, can’t really do much besides offer comfort and listen to your stories.
All in all, it’s not hard to see why elderly can become lonely during Christmas.If you’re not quite there yet, but you know somebody who might be feeling this way, there are things you can do to lift their spirits. As busy as you probably are with your own holiday preparations, find some time to think about what Christmas is really about. Nobody deserves to be alone, especially not during such a cheerful holiday, so here are some ways in which you can make the Christmas season brighter for your elderly family members or friends.
Listen to them
One of the best gifts you can give to anybody is your time and attention. Listen to your elderly when they talk to you regardless of the topic. We are all going through different challenges in life, and we all need somebody with whom we can share our thoughts and concerns. Showing them compassion and friendship will mean more to them than you can imagine, and it might help you understand why they are lonely in the first place.
By listening to them and learning about them, you might also come up with some new, better ways to cheer them up. For example, you can spend some time looking at old Christmas photos and videos, watching Christmas films, or listening to holiday music while you chat. Regardless of what you do, know that the time you dedicate to them is the most precious gift they could get.
Don’t forget them
Your elderly family members might be enjoying independent living, and perhaps the reason they aren’t calling so often is simply that they don’t want to feel like a burden, but that doesn’t mean they want to be alone all the time – especially not during the holidays. You are a part of their life as much as they are of yours, so remind them how much they mean to you. If you have younger children, bring them with you for a visit, or see if you can find a way for your senior to see your children perform in the school plays. Show them that you still remember the importance of family values, and you will make their Christmas truly special.
Go back to the cards
Nowadays, we congratulate each other everything through social media and emails, as if we’ve forgotten how good it feels to receive a handwritten and decorated Christmas card. Our elderly might not be that good with technology, or they might just prefer to do things the old fashion way. Either way, encourage your family members to use their creativity and make a few Christmas cards for your seniors.
You can add photos, drawings, poems, anything you like. Also, help your elderly make their own cards for their friends. It will mean a lot to them, and it will definitely bring a smile to their face.
Help them set the atmosphere
Nothing says Christmas like cookies and decorations. If your senior is living in a retirement facility, help them create the holiday atmosphere. Get them a nice big Christmas tree; decorate it with colourful Christmas lights and ornaments; make their tables more festive with some nice linen in the appropriate colours and themes; and bake traditional holiday cookies with them. Just make sure all the decorations are safe, and don’t do it all in one day. Make the fun last and include them in the decorating process, even if just by asking for a cookie recipe. It will put them in the holiday mood and give them something to look forward to. And who knows, they might even share a few Christmas stories with you, so don’t forget to listen.
Show them the wonders of technology
Your elderly friend or family member might be feeling lonely because most of their loved ones have moved away. So, as a Christmas gift, try to arrange a Skype call with their far-away friends and family members. They will love the opportunity to see and hear their grandchildren or childhood friends, especially if they haven’t seen them for a while.
You can even do it while they are opening their presents, so they can share that special moment. An even better idea, if you can afford it, would be to gift them your old iPad or laptop that you were planning to sell and teach them how to Skype with their loved ones any time they want.
Depression and loneliness are actual problems that are too often not taken seriously. As busy as you might be with your own holiday preparations, do as much as you can to include your elderly and help them feel the Christmas joy as well. However, don’t stress about it too much ‒ if you don’t have the time to decorate their whole place, then do only one part. It’s important to actually be happy in order to make them happy, and you can’t do that if you’re constantly thinking about all the things you need to take care of. Remember that holidays are not about perfection ‒ your best will be more than good enough as long as you show them how much they matter to you.
Isabel Williams is a body and mind balance consultant. She describes herself as lover of literature and philosophy, runner, and tai chi master.
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