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8 Tips to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors During the Holidays

Edited by Rory Clark

This holiday season will look quite different from previous years. With more seniors forced to celebrate the holidays alone, learn how to help an elderly loved one feel your love from afar with these 8 tips to prevent loneliness in seniors.

During the holidays, there is a lot of pressure on people to have fun. While the season is meant to be joyous and bright, many seniors report feeling increasingly isolated and unhappy during this time of year—even in more “normal” circumstances. Families are understandably concerned about leaving seniors alone during the holidays this year.

Why Loneliness in Seniors During the Holidays

While aging can impart wisdom and experience, even the healthiest seniors face inevitable losses. Family members and friends become ill and pass away. Energy and mobility levels frequently deteriorate, creating a sense of loss of independence and opportunity. Neighborhoods evolve, leaving even those who are healthy enough to remain in their own homes feeling isolated.

Isolation Complicates the Holidays

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), socially isolated older adults are more likely to develop depression. For many elders, the emphasis on family, friends, and togetherness during this time of year can bring melancholy feelings to the surface. This perplexing situation creates logistical and emotional difficulties for families across the country and around the world. With the increase in coronavirus cases, it is more critical than ever to be supportive and attentive to our loved ones, but in ways that keep everyone safe and healthy.

Focus on What Matters

You are probably busy adapting your holiday plans and traditions, but we must remind ourselves what the holiday season is truly about. Simplifying some things will allow you to focus on what matters: the essential people in your life. If you believe that your parent, spouse, friend, or neighbor may be feeling lonely or depressed, there are steps that you can take to help lift their spirits. Use these ideas to brighten up a loved one’s winter season.

8 Tips to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

Make a Point of Listening

When your loved one wishes to speak, even if the subject is negative, an open and empathetic conversation can assist them in processing their feelings, whether they are grieving a loss or adjusting to new challenges in their lives. Additionally, it may reveal why they are depressed and inspire additional ways to lift their spirits.

Remind Them of Their Significance In Your Life

They may feel ineffective or burdensome if they cannot contribute to or participate fully in the festivities as they once did. Encourage them to do what they can and take care not to appear as if what you do for them is out of a sense of obligation. Demonstrate to them that they are loved.

Simplify Holiday Plans This Year

Assist your loved one in understanding that you are attempting to simplify your holiday plans to focus on the true meaning of these occasions. Indicate that you are trying to ignore the growing hype surrounding food, gifts, decorations, and parties to focus on the people and values you value. Remind them that they taught you the importance of family and friendship. Express your gratitude.

Visitor Requirements

If a senior is a long-term care facility resident, inquire with the activities director and local schools or extracurricular programs about arranging for children to conduct virtual visits or perform for the residents. For elders experiencing physical or emotional pain, new activities and interactions with younger generations can be incredibly uplifting. Visiting pet therapy is another source of entertainment and socialization for seniors who have been deprived of meaningful interactions.

Social and Spiritual Support

Check with your loved one’s religious organization to see if they can offer social and spiritual support. For example, the Stephen Ministry is a program offered by many Christian churches that provides one-on-one support to those with difficulties in life. Many churches can arrange for a congregant or leader to visit a senior in need. Just having someone to talk to can go a long way toward relieving depression.

Deck The Halls

Help them add festive touches to their home or room in the long-term care facility. Ensure that these items do not present a safety hazard. Try to decorate in stages to prolong the fun. Give them something to look forward to. Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations. Be sure to listen to their stories. Ask about unique pieces if you can’t be there in person, at least phone or video call while they’re decking the halls. 

Food for The Soul

Cook traditional baked goods or treats with your loved one. If they reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, bring familiar treats representing your holiday customs for your elder to enjoy and share with their friends. Try to make their dining table festive. Offer to send themed decor, appropriate colors, and seasonal flavors.

Share Your Time

The most important thing you can do with a senior to make them feel loved and included this season is to spend time with them in a safe way. Look at family photos, watch home videos or holiday movies, listen to seasonal music, or do crafts together. For some families, these traditions may need to take place via FaceTime or Zoom or while both of you social distance and wear masks. Regardless of what you decide to do together, any time you can spare is a precious gift and will help prevent loneliness in seniors this holiday season.

Planning for The Future

We answer many questions. We want to give you peace of mind and legal measures that you can take to ensure that The Legacy Elder Law Center will take care of you and your family members. Contact us today.

About the author

Rory Clark

Rory has more than 30 years’ experience practicing elder law, estate planning, asset protection, Veteran’s affairs, and special needs planning. Through his personal journey, Rory not only understands the complex legal issues involved as a professional but also the intense emotional issues as a caregiver.