“10 Gifts from the Heart” to Give the Seniors in Your Life During the Holidays.
The Christmas Holidays are a mixed blessing for many of us. As family traditions are remembered and practiced, they often come with the renewal of precious memories that can bring joy and laughter or sometimes tears. As we honor and reminisce the happy times and childhood memories, we are able to transport our minds back in time. It is the simple things that we remember first; the smell of the turkey or ham, or tamales cooking, the taste or texture of Grandma&rsquo's favorite holiday treat, and memories of children gathered around the Christmas tree with torn paper strewn about and spontaneous Christmas carols bursting from the room.
While the Christmas lights and music are joyful and uplifting, they sometimes stir our souls and cause us to recall gifts long forgotten, old memories renewed, and may bring tears to our eyes as we remember those we love who are now gone. In addition, as we age, our mobility levels often decrease, resulting in some loss of independence, which can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation during the holidays. This is especially true for seniors in our lives.
Here are Two Questions:
How do we love and honor the seniors in our lives during the Holiday Season? How can we help them be an active part of our festivities? Here are ten simple ideas to bring moments of joy to those precious seniors in your lives, to let them know that they truly matter more than the hustle and bustle, and more than the gifts we buy or receive.
- Listen to them: Be present in the moment. Ask them to share their favorite holiday memory or tradition. Ask them about their career, what they learned, what they did, what their biggest challenge was in life. They are a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. Try to access it with your creative questions. If they seem sad, empathize, hold their hand, and create a new memory of the moments you are spending with them now. Remind them that they have taught you the importance of family and friendship and thank them for that. If you can’t be with them in person, be creative. Call them, arrange a video call with family or a friend or an activities director if they are in a facility, so they can see your face and hear your words.
- Seniors love to hear the words “I love you. You are important to me.” Consider putting those words in writing through a card or letter. Like a soldier on the battlefield who reads the same letter over and over, and finds encouragement, the seniors in your life can read those words over and over again, making them smile day after day with the reminder that they are truly loved. If they receive cards from friends, read them aloud along with them, hang them up so they can see them every day. If they want to send a few cards to their close friends, assist them in doing so. It will make their day. Encourage your children to make handmade cards for grandma or grandpa. That is a treasure that brings joy every time!
- Give seniors the opportunity to contribute something at holiday gatherings. Allow them to read the story of Christmas from the Bible if that is your tradition. It may be helping to set the table or assisting them in making a favorite holiday dish, reading a story to the grandkids, asking for their ideas or suggestions, decorating cookies, or wrapping a few presents. Imagine how meaningful it can be to contribute to a holiday celebration for someone in the sunset years.
- Consider adding a festive touch to a senior’s home or to their room. Decorate a table, put up a small Christmas tree, hang a few Christmas lights, add a few ornaments or garland to brighten the room. Bring Christmas goodies for them to share with friends.
- Dedicate an hour to look at old family photos with them, share funny stories or some of your favorite memories about your childhood, and allow them to do the same. You will discover new stories that you can pass down to your family.
- If you are able to give them a small gift, make it one that matters. What do they love? New earrings, a music box, a mug filled with candy or nuts. their favorite coffee or tea, a new pair of cozy gloves or slippers, a small new tool or gadget that they will enjoy. A framed picture of their kids or grandkids is one of their favorites, and they will find joy in it again and again.
- Give them the gift of time. Sometimes seniors, especially those who are homebound, feel detached from the holidays. Take them on an outing, maybe an evening drive to see Christmas lights, assist them in taking a short walk through a decorated mall where the hustle and bustle are happening around them. Grab a hot chocolate, and sit on a bench to watch the passersby. Watch their favorite Christmas movie with them. Tell them funny stories to make them laugh. Take them to church if that would be meaningful to them.
- The first Christmas is always the hardest after the loss of a loved one, whether a close friend, sibling, or spouse. Allow your loved one to share their grief with you, and if possible, offer to go with them to the gravesite to place flowers to honor that loved one sometime during the holiday season. During your Christmas celebration, display a picture of that person, and take a few moments to share thoughts and a story about them.
- If your loved ones aren’t able to attend your Christmas gathering, take a short video. Allow some family members to share a greeting with them, especially the kids or grandkids. If your loved one is not techy, ask someone to stop by to share that memory with them. They will feel included and part of your celebration.
- Adapt to changing needs. Each year as parents or grandparents age, their physical needs will change. However, the need for love and acceptance will never change. So, at the beginning of each holiday season, reevaluate your loved one’s situation, and adapt your gift-giving or special remembrances to their current needs. It only takes a few minutes but will make a difference in how you share your love and appreciation for them at this important time of their lives.
A Final Thought:
Ask yourselves this question. How do I want to be cared for when I become a senior? We are all growing older, and how we love and care for the seniors in our lives may very well be an indication of how we will be cared for during our senior years. You have the unique ability to make an impact on your children and grandchildren, teaching them the values and the importance of loving care for seniors that will influence your family history. It is a worthy endeavor, and a lesson in values that only you can teach. It is never too late to start! Help make this year a season to be celebrated and remembered. Embrace the seniors in your life, enjoy special times together, and capture the moments that will be tomorrow’s memories.