During the holidays, we put an emphasis on caring for others and spending quality time with loved ones. While it’s a celebratory time of year, there are many older adults who struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. If you’re concerned someone in your life may be having a difficult holiday season, learn more about what could be causing those feelings and ways you can help.
3 Reasons Holidays Can Be Hard for Seniors
The holiday experience is typically portrayed as universally enjoyed. Whether it’s a family gathering for a Thanksgiving football game or gleefully opening presents on Christmas morning, you don’t see a lot of frowns in the crowd. However, a recent AARP study found 31% of respondents said they had felt lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years.
The impacts of isolation are especially felt among older adults for a number of reasons. Here are three of the top contributors to holiday loneliness:
1. Distant Loved Ones
As children become adults, move away and start their own families, this distance can make gathering for the holidays increasingly difficult. The same can be said for close friends and neighbors who are no longer in the area. Without these familiar, close-knit connections to celebrate with, the holidays often don’t feel the same. A lack of social interaction can intensify feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression — especially during the holiday season.
2. Reminders of Limitations
There are many benefits to growing older, but there are also a few limitations as well. Once retirement rolls around, it’s common for older adults to live on a fixed income. This careful financial management can make the holidays increasingly difficult to navigate with all of the expenses involved. The need for travel, presents and special meals from years past might not be feasible on a fixed income. Additionally, the change in weather can make it more difficult to get out and about. Snow and ice makes driving or even walking to local shops and restaurants a challenge.
3. Changing Traditions
Cherished memories are frequently associated with the holiday season. As traditions and dynamics change over the years, looking back on these good times can be a source of sadness for many older adults. On top of that, much holiday happiness is associated with bringing joy to others. When there aren’t ecstatic children gushing over what Santa brought or guests sitting around the table enjoying a home cooked meal, it may seem like the holidays have lost meaning.
Tips for Helping Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
You might be surprised to discover the effects of isolation go well beyond feelings of sadness or loneliness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report isolation has detrimental health effects for older adults that may rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. Luckily, with some understanding of the issues behind holiday loneliness you can take steps to help close friends and family re-engage and enjoy the season again. Here are some tips to get started:
Start the Conversation
Ebenezer Scrooge is a legendary holiday character for all the wrong reasons. No one wants to take on that role and bring others down, so those struggling during the season may be reticent to share their true feelings. Provide a safe haven where those feelings can be shared without judgement, and try to make loved ones feel understood and heard.
Make Meaningful Connections
It should come as no surprise that a quick call on a holiday morning doesn’t cut it for those struggling with isolation and loneliness. Instead of simply checking the box, consider ways to make a more meaningful connection. Video calls are no substitute for spending time together, but seeing a familiar smiling face can truly lift your spirits. To take that idea even further, set up a schedule for friends and family to regularly check in over the holidays. For those who aren’t as technologically inclined, consider having a card-making party so loved ones receive special messages in their mailbox all season long.
Reignite Holiday Traditions
Reminiscing on favorite holiday memories can lead to sadness when things aren’t the same as they used to be. With that in mind, don’t let those beloved traditions fade away. Though you can’t recreate the past, you can still focus on bringing back familiar feelings. This could be anything from decorating the tree with ornaments that have been packed away for decades to gathering with close connections for a home screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
More Inclusive Celebrations
The holidays are a time for celebration, and you should embrace and enjoy your traditions. At the same time, think about how you can make adjustments to spread that enjoyment to everyone involved. Even if the older adults in your life are invited to the party, it can still feel lonely in a crowd of strangers and loud music. With some thoughtful accommodations, like lowering the volume of the music or adjusting the event time to be a little earlier, the festivities can be a resounding success for everyone.
Help Embrace Change
Sometimes looking to the future is the best route to take. Over time, interests and hobbies change. Rather than trying to keep things as they’ve always been, seek opportunities to incorporate newfound passions into your holiday activities. Ultimately this will make those closest to you feel understood and appreciated when you engage and meet them where they find meaning.
How a Community like The Stayton Helps Seniors Fight Loneliness
The Stayton is a premier senior living community located in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas. Our priority is enriching the lives of our residents through both culture and community. We offer spaces like a creative arts center and performing arts theater where individuals can pursue their passions while forging friendships with others who share the same desire to explore.
While the city of Fort Worth provides seemingly endless opportunities for everything from museums to fine dining, we embody that spirit within The Stayton community life. Our 11th-story Skyline Restaurant features world-class, chef-prepared meals, and offers some of the best views in the city. Better yet, we regularly host renowned speakers and artists from the Fort Worth Opera, Kimbell Art Museum and many more to foster a sense of connection and engagement among residents.
Beyond the fantastic culture, wellness is always at the heart of everything we do. We have tailored health services that provide individual attention and customized care to meet the specific needs of our residents. Our caring, dedicated team is skilled at supporting the activities of daily living and fostering independence and purpose.
If the rich community life and care at The Stayton sound like they could help someone you know struggling with loneliness, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re available and ready to answer any questions you have. Contact us today to discover for yourself what makes The Stayton so special.