This holiday season will look quite different from previous years. A time of year generally thought of as being filled with joy and love, for older Canadian seniors, it can also be a time of great loneliness.
According to Statistics Canada, close to 1.4 million Canadian seniors report feeling lonely. This is particularly true for senior surviving spouses, who having lost their lifelong partner then experience a decreasing circle of friends. Grown-up children may live a long way away and lead busy lives that don’t allow much time for visits, even during the holidays.
Coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many may feel even more lonely this year. Read on to learn how to help seniors–or anyone– feel your love from afar.
Helping a Senior Cope With Holiday Loneliness
Rethink Your Expectations
The Holidays,” conjure up images of happy families gathered, sharing a bountiful meal and much merriment. But these heightened expectations surrounding the holidays, the passage of another year, and the winter blues can make the holidays a particularly challenging time for many older people.
To circumvent feelings of loneliness and loss, we need to manage expectations. Many of us want to recreate nostalgic moments from the past, but this is a whole new holiday season. Rather than compare this year to those past, we need to simplify and remember that the best gift we can give loved ones is to help keep them safe and healthy.
Develop new traditions
Approaching the holidays with a willingness to adapt is essential to strengthening resilience, to crafting a satisfying holiday season however we can. After mourning the reality that everything is different, reconfiguring events safely is crucial to avoiding loneliness and depression.
- Involve your loved on in brainstorming how you can celebrate at a distance. Think about holiday games and festivities that might be fun to do over video conference.
- Many seniors enjoy reflecting on past holidays as they unpack cherished decorations. Spend time with them via phone or video call while they’re decking the halls. This will remind them how important they are to these annual celebrations and every day. Show them they are loved.
- Help them add festive touches to their home or room. Try to decorate in stages to prolong the fun and give them something to look forward to. Some small, easy-to-use decorations in senior apartments include removable window clings, garland, and artificial wreaths or floral arrangements.
- Instead of traditional holiday parties, ask whether they would be able to attend a virtual gathering. Set up phones, laptops, or tablets at the table and eat dinner together! Realizing that people they want to spend time with them is priceless and helps stave off loneliness. If your loved one has dementia, read about how to visit with them virtually by clicking on this link.
- Prepare a book of past celebrations to help seniors with dementia anticipate this year’s festivities and reminisce about those they enjoyed in the past.
- If you usually attend religious ceremonies in-person, many religious organizations are going virtual this year. See a list here.
- For seniors in assisted living, check with the activities director about what is being offered in their retirement community. The activities team create a calendar packed with lots of events to enjoy every single day, including physically distanced exercise classes, cards, and games. Post a calendar of activities in their apartment and encourage them to attend as many as possible, depending on safety precautions in place.
The most important thing you can do with a senior to make them feel loved and included this season is to simply 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 via FaceTime or Zoom or while you both physically distance and wear masks. Regardless of what you decide to do together, the time is a precious gift.
Giving reduces loneliness; it connects us with others in a way that nothing else can. Think about your local community and the areas in which others may be struggling or finding themselves in need.
Nothing illustrates this quite as well as the events of this past week. When an All Seniors Care retirement residence put out a call to give seniors cards as a way to help boost the spirits of those most isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world listened.
Within hours of posting photos on social media asking the community for Christmas cards, Chateau Symmes in Quebec was overwhelmed by the positive response. The plea for Christmas cheer soon went viral as the post – and idea – sparked a landslide of giving that stretched as far as Australia.
The holidays this year will be both different and potentially joyful. Break with feelings of loneliness by reaching out, by drawing close, and giving fully to one another.
The important thing to keep in mind is that these feelings won’t last forever. Feelings are temporary — they come and go like waves. Be mindful of and present for the thoughts and feelings you’re having. You can be aware of your loneliness without buying into the idea that you’re actually alone. Know that it will pass.
A community that cares
One of the major benefits of senior living at a All Seniors Care is the community of people who call it home. At our independent senior living facilities, residents enjoy their own private suites with all the comforts of home, with the support of our in-house team including wellness specialists, maintenance, housekeeping, and chefs.
Even during the pandemic, just outside their suite door they will find companionship, activities, support, and the sheer enjoyment of being part of a vibrant, active, and understanding community. Explore our residences in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec, our Manitoba housing for seniors, and Edmonton assisted living!
Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help enhance your loved one’s quality of life.
Author: Julianna McLeod