Enter this phrase into Google: “elderly at Christmas.”
What you’ll see is a lot of important discussion about loneliness and seniors and how the holidays can exacerbate the problems we’ve come to associate with that. And it’s true, a notable number of seniors report their feelings of loneliness escalate during the holidays. But as we tend to learn with age, every cloud has a silver lining.
It’s really all about perspective, and so what we offer to you this holiday season is a different way to look at how your age can affect you that this most wonderful time of year. It has been scientifically proven that mentality has a significant impact on how we age because, as Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer says in her book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility: “our attitudes, ideas, and beliefs are at least as important to health as our diets and our doctors.”
The Joy of Giving and Receiving
There’s nothing quite like finding just the right gift for your loved one, a gift that shows not only your love for them, but also that you understand and appreciate them. As you age, your kids get older and so do your friends. With their aging, what makes a good gift changes along with the expectations of the recipient. Finding gifts that help you express your love and understanding of friends and family while simultaneously not breaking your bank is both satisfying and worthy of your time.
But you’re also never too old to enjoy receiving a gift either, whether it’s homemade arts and craft project from a grandchild or a reference to an inside joke with a friend, receiving a gift is a great reminder that you are a loved and valued part of something greater than yourself, be that a friendship or family bond.
More Time to Enjoy Yourself
Holidays in your younger years doesn’t necessarily give you much time to enjoy them for yourself. Kids, Christmas parties, office holiday parties, bouncing between households, it all tends to lead to a lot of your holidays feeling like a hustle. But as we age and retire, we have more of an opportunity to soak in this time of year and make the most of your time with the people you care about the most.
Take All the Photos
One of the most common refrains from seniors is that they didn’t appreciate the moments of their youth in a way they feel satisfied with. Before the days of the cell phone camera, taking photos was more of a conscious decision and not one that we always thought to do. Now, you can. If you’re a grandparent, it’s almost expected that you’ll look to get photos with your family and everyone in the room has an expensive camera in their pocket. So take advantage while you can, and grab all the pictures your heart desires.
Time to Talk
The holidays are a time for laughter, a time for gathering and for communicating. Catching up with loved ones and occasionally meeting new friends is a tremendous boost for anyone, and the holidays are the perfect time to play catch up, share stories and take the occasional stroll down memory lane.
Soak in Holiday Activities
All those holiday parties can get a little old by the time it’s all said and done, but when else do you get to do the things you do around the holidays? Whether it’s donning your ugliest Christmas sweater, baking Christmas cookies or opening a hilarious present in a white elephant gift exchange, the holidays present us with plenty of fun activities to take part in.
A Reason to Decorate
Few holidays come with the opportunity to decorate our homes, yards and neighborhoods like Christmas. Regardless of where you live, it’s a lot easier to get into the Christmas spirit when things are properly decorated. So pull the garland out of the crawl space, hang the lights around your patio and fill the room with pine scent if you don’t have a real tree. Holidays are about the feelings they evoke, and the sights, sounds and smells that come with it are an important part of that.
An Excuse to Enjoy a Big Meal
As we age, our diets tend to become more restrictive and portion sizes smaller. As a result, we rarely get to enjoy a big meal with multiple sides and courses. While a healthy Christmas meal can be just as fun as a honey baked ham or side of prime rib, the fact is that there are a few occasions throughout the year where you can allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy a guilty pleasure. Christmas is one of those times. So throw the diet out the window for the day and dig into whatever you feel like.
Arts and Crafts Opportunities
It’s been proven that the act of creating things is healthy for the aging brain and there’s no better time to get creative than the holidays. Making gifts for people is oftentimes a good way to save money for seniors on a budget and is a good way to give a gift from the heart. Whether it’s a something for the grandkids, a small project for a close friend or just a gift to yourself in the form of taking time to create something you’ve always wanted to, getting into a bit of holiday arts and crafts is a good way to make sure you enjoy the holidays as much as you did in your youth.
Speaking of the arts, few things bring joy more than music. Holiday songs are a fun way to spread cheer and celebrate traditions. You don’t have to join a group of carolers or be a particularly good singer to enjoy holiday songs either. The simple act of taking in a holiday album or singing along to classic holiday songs can bring joy, so don’t underestimate the power of the playlist this Christmas.
Find the Lights
Christmas lights are a hallmark of the season, spreading festive cheer throughout the local community. Some neighborhoods still go all out, creating a lightshow that turns a their blocks into a Christmas themed Times Square. Or if nothing else, take a look at the local paper and see if there are any Christmas villages in your local area. These are usually budget friendly way to spend some time around people beaming with holiday cheer. For the elderly, getting up on the roof and wrestling with strings of Christmas lights isn’t always safe or recommended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a bit of joy from someone else’s decorations.
Share the Value of Tradition
Traditions matter a great deal. Passing them down to younger generations can provide you with a sense of purpose during the holiday season and help ensure that others enjoy the things that you love the most about the holidays. Maybe it’s a pumpkin pie recipe, a special scent in the air or the way you decorate the tree. Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to pass down traditions to younger generations, even if they sometimes don’t seem all that interested. They’ll thank you one day.
If You’re Alone, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Loved
Perhaps you are of an age where your spouse and friends are gone, and you find yourself in a position where you just don’t have many people to spend the holiday with. Also, important to remember is the nature of modern life. Employers are granting less time off for the holidays, travel can be difficult, and the fact is, people’s lives are busier than ever before. Getting together at the holidays just isn’t as easy as it once was.
The truth is, you may need to reset your expectations. Don’t get sucked into the sentiment and imagery of holiday movie sets, which often paint an unrealistic picture of families at Christmas. But however alone you may feel, in this age of ever connectedness, the internet can help you avoid feelings of loneliness. Talk to people on social media and use technology such as Skype to help you see and speak to members of your family you can’t be with due to geographic distance.