Helpful Tips for Keeping Senior’s Spirits High This Holiday Season

As the popular holiday song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

For some seniors, though, that’s not always the case. What should be the happiest season of all can bring up complicated emotions that make it difficult to enjoy the holidays. That is especially true for seniors who are lonely and missing their family, or for seniors coping with the loss of a spouse or other loved one.

During the holiday season, it’s important for caregivers and family members to be mindful of the needs of the seniors in their lives. 

There is a lot that can be done to lift seniors’ spirits during the holidays, whether it’s helping them to recall good times, or to create joyous new memories.

Read on to learn about a few ways you can help keep spirits high this holiday season for the important seniors in your life.

How to improve the holidays for seniors

Help with decorations

One of the best ways to keep the elderly adults in your life smiling this season is to help them decorate their personal living spaces. Sometimes, this can be as easy as providing a little encouragement and company. It’s almost always more fun to decorate, though, when you have extra helping hands.

Seniors may need help getting a Christmas tree up and the lights strung. Finding cherished ornaments or special family heirlooms to hang on the tree can spark joy and bring back happy memories. Consider hanging holiday lights in living areas or outside the house or apartment. 

Make it feel like a celebration, and less like a chore, by playing holiday music while you work. If you don’t have decorations on hand, maybe you can work together to make decorations. Or maybe you happen to have extra decorations around your house that you can contribute to the cause.

You can also help display holiday cards that come in during the holidays. Particularly if a senior will be spending time alone this season, displaying holiday cards can help make the space feel less lonely. 

Grandkids can make decorating extra fun and special if they’re available to help. Most kids love to use their imagination and be helpful, and their enthusiasm can be contagious. It’s also a great way for grandkids to spend meaningful time with their grandparents over the holidays. 

If you help decorate, we recommend offering to come back and help put decorations away, too. This will help reduce stress for a senior who might otherwise find it overwhelming to take on that task alone. It also gives seniors another visit to look forward to after the holidays.

Help wrap gifts

Gift wrapping isn’t always easy, and it can be particularly difficult in older age. Gift giving should be joyful, and not stressful, so why not lend a helping hand with gift wrapping?

Your loved one may find it challenging to wrap multiple gifts, especially if they have a condition like arthritis, poor vision or declining dexterity. You may be surprised at what a gift you’re giving by helping to wrap Christmas gifts!

We suggest trying to find ways to include seniors while you’re helping out with this task. For instance, ask what wrapping paper they want you to use and let them place the bow on the package once it’s wrapped. 

It can be very satisfying to see how much more relaxed and excited someone is about the holidays once their presents are ready to deliver. It allows them to focus on the gift giving, rather than on the challenge of gift wrapping. 

Holiday meal preparation

Making Christmas cookies is a fun tradition for many families. Involving your loved one in the process can be a win-win situation. They can enjoy quality time with you while baking, and you can provide them with a gift of cookies to take home and deliver to their neighbors. For seniors who used to always bake and share cookies, this can help reconnect them with those happy memories. And it’s always a good feeling when you have a yummy treat to share with others.

Seniors who won’t be making a holiday meal for themselves may also miss participating in those traditions. Consider making them feel included as you do your holiday meal preparation. This could be tasking them with peeling vegetables, stirring ingredients, folding napkins or setting the table. Even small roles in the kitchen can make them feel included and give them the satisfaction of helping out.

Stroll down memory lane

Young woman with senior grandfather in wheelchair indoors at home at Christmas

Encouraging seniors to talk about loved ones or adventures from their past can help lift their spirits. It can help them feel young and show them you’re interested in their experiences. Recording their stories can also help them preserve their history for future generations. 

If a senior is not able to easily recollect their past, try using photo albums, family videos and music to jog their memories. Consider recording stories they can recall on video so you can watch the videos together in the future. These recordings will also make a wonderful keepsake for your family in future years.

Assist with holiday cards and letters

For seniors who may need some assistance using technology, offer to make their annual holiday card. This can easily be done using websites such as Shutterfly, Snapfish or Walgreens. You can also help them write or copy holiday letters to send to loved ones. Cards and letters help seniors keep in touch with lifelong friends and family. In addition to helping create the mailings, you might also consider offering to help stuffing and addressing envelopes and adding stamps.

A cost-effective alternative to printing and shipping cards or letters is to send an e-card that instantly delivers via email. In a short amount of time together, you could help the senior in your life create and send a digital card.

One of the benefits of sending holiday communications is that you’re more likely to receive them yourself. Receiving cards and letters can also prompt people to reach out. By helping the senior in your life send out something for the holidays, you’re helping to give them the gift of connection with friends and family members. What a great way to help lift spirits during the holidays! 

Attend a festive event

Many towns organize special holiday events such as concerts, parades and other gatherings. Arrange to pick up your loved one and bring them to one (or more!) of these events to celebrate the holidays. Seniors who get out in the sunlight – whether it’s cold outside or not – are less likely to suffer from seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. Attending a daytime event outside can be beneficial for their mental health.

If there aren’t a lot of local events to choose from, consider getting together a group to go caroling around the neighborhood. Whether the senior in your life participates in the singing, or just comes along for the fun, caroling is a great way to lift spirits during the holiday season. 

Another low-cost entertainment option is to drive around and see holiday decorations in the neighborhood when they are lit up at night. Even if it’s just a quick drive, it’s sure to bring smiles as you admire the holiday lights together. 

Stay on top of medications

It can be difficult to keep on top of medications when things get busy during the holiday season. If you are a caretaker for a senior, it’s important to make sure their medication schedule stays consistent. Otherwise, they could experience adverse side effects that make them feel unwell, or their health could suffer. No one wants to experience an unexpected medical event over the holidays.

Here are four ways you can help your loved one safely keep track and remember to take their medications:

  • Keep medicine organized in a pill container
  • Set a reminder, whether it be on a phone or tablet
  • Follow the directions on medications and use them as prescribed
  • Be aware of prescription side effects

Food routines can also be disrupted during the holidays. This can be particularly detrimental for seniors who have diabetes or food allergies. If you are a caretaker, it’s important to be particularly mindful of dietary restrictions during the holidays.

How senior living communities can help

Our Sonida Senior Living communities across the country are getting in the spirit of the holidays in much the same way as families across the world.

All of our Sonida Senior Living communities are decked out with holiday decorations. We have lots of festive activities that take place between now and the New Year, because we know that spending time with friends and neighbors almost always lifts spirits during the holidays. In fact, socializing can be one of the best ways to boost happiness for seniors, during the holidays and beyond.

Our talented chefs are also hard at work creating the perfect holiday menu for everyone to enjoy. When you’re part of a senior living community, we take care of the work, so you can enjoy the holidays with loved ones, and without the stress.

Sonida Senior Living wishes you and all of your loved ones a happy and safe holiday season!

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Senior woman receiving a Christmas gift from her granddaughter.
Senior woman receiving a Christmas gift from her granddaughter.

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