The holiday season is typically thought of as an occasion for fun and festivities. However, for many older adults it creates feelings of isolation and loneliness, making it an especially difficult time of year. If you’re concerned a senior in your life might be experiencing increased loneliness during the holidays, try these suggestions to help them feel included and appreciated.
Why Do Seniors Experience Holiday Loneliness?
While it might seem like the holidays are universally enjoyed, it’s surprisingly common for older individuals to experience feelings of loneliness. In fact, a study by the AARP discovered 31% of respondents reported feeling lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years. On top of that, 41% had worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome.
As circumstances in life start to change, this feeling of isolation can be especially prevalent among older adults. If there’s a senior in your life who has a diminished enthusiasm for the holiday season, these are some of the most common reasons they might be experiencing loneliness.
Far-Flung Family and Friends
One of the biggest causes of loneliness for seniors during the holidays is not having the same friends and family nearby to celebrate with. As adult children have their own families or close friends move out of the neighborhood, it can become more difficult to gather and spend quality time together. These feelings tend to be magnified around the holiday season when it seems everyone else has close-knit connections and a full plate of activities to enjoy.
There’s a reason many older adults choose to spend the winter months in warmer climates such as Florida. When cold weather arrives and there’s snow and ice coating the roads and sidewalks, the ability for seniors who live in the Midwest to get out and about freely can feel very limited. Even if there are close community connections nearby, older adults may be hesitant to drive or walk down the street in these difficult conditions. It’s especially isolating when it seems like leaving the house for the holidays isn’t a feasible option.
After decades of celebrating the holidays and seeing the commercial messaging over and over again, it’s understandable that a certain amount of holiday fatigue can set in. Especially when the dynamics of holiday celebrations aren’t what they used to be. Many seniors derive much of their holiday happiness from the enjoyment of others. When the kids aren’t racing down the stairs to see what Santa left them or a special holiday meal requires an exhausting effort, it’s easy for older adults to withdraw from participating in activities around this time of year altogether.
5 Ways to Help Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
Though the way we celebrate the holidays evolves over time, the spirit of the season is about maintaining meaningful connections with those most important to us. For the older adults in your life who might be experiencing loneliness and isolation during this time, consider trying any of these five ways to help make them feel included.
1. Initiate Outreach
When reaching out to the older adults in your life over the holidays, it should be more meaningful than a quick check-in on Christmas morning. No one wants others to feel down during the season, but it’s easy to get caught up in the business of everything else happening and forget to make those connections. Be the one to take the initiative and create an outreach plan for the older adults in your family.
2. Take Time to Listen
A common sentiment among seniors who aren’t enthusiastic about the holiday experience is that others won’t understand what they’re feeling. These older adults don’t want to be a buzzkill and ruin the enjoyment of others, so those feelings get bottled up. Instead of expecting seniors to put on a smile and power through, be a sounding board to whom they can express their true thoughts without judgment. The better you can understand where the older adults in your life are coming from emotionally, the better you can adjust and engage them in celebrations.
3. Make Appropriate Accommodations
As you plan your holiday parties and events, try to consider ways your celebrations could be more inclusive for everyone involved. Being in a large crowd of people you don’t know can still be lonely, so think about people who could be added to the guest list that would feel like a social safety net for your older guests or be exciting to catch up with. Loud music also makes it difficult for many older adults to carry on a conversation. Consider having a time where the seniors can celebrate with everyone comfortably before things get a little more raucous.
4. Find Familiarity
The holidays come with many treasured memories. As time passes, some of those cherished traditions can fall by the wayside. When Christmas or Hanukkah doesn’t feel the same anymore, older adults end up withdrawing and find themselves increasingly isolated. Look for ways you can start to incorporate some of those familiar elements into your current traditions. This provides a greater sense of ownership and offers more to look forward to each year.
5. Seek New Sources of Enjoyment
It’s a fact of life that traditions are bound to change over time. Instead of lamenting what’s lost, seek opportunities to incorporate new hobbies or activities into your holiday routine. Everything from picking out a holiday show to attend each year to trying some new festive recipes can help older adults experiencing loneliness reengage with something they’re passionate about.
How Harbour’s Edge Helps Reduce Loneliness During the Holidays
Harbour’s Edge is a senior living community in beautiful Delray Beach, Florida. Our top priority is supporting residents in fulfilling their passions and accomplishing their personal wellness goals. We have a thriving community life where residents make deep personal connections, and this is especially emphasized around the holidays with special events and activities.
In addition, our many amenities ensure everyone at Harbour’s Edge can celebrate the holiday season the way each resident wants. Our friendly team will help coordinate transportation options so residents can spend time with nearby friends and family, and loved ones are welcomed with open arms. Better yet, skilled care from our health services team is available around the clock to provide comfort and peace of mind.
No matter the season, we are here to answer your questions and show you what makes our community so special. If you’re interested in learning more about life at Harbour’s Edge, please don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience.