'Tis the season to deck the halls, gather around the tree and enjoy quality time together. But, with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, this year’s holiday season may take on a vastly different feel for older adults everywhere. Instead of festive sights, sounds and smells, older adults isolating at home may experience heightened feelings of loneliness and depression.
As family caregivers, providing ways to connect with family and creating meaningful memories for your aging loved ones are more important than ever this holiday.
“There’s no doubt this holiday season will be unlike any other,” said Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “But the pandemic doesn’t need to steal the holiday cheer from older adults. With a little creativity and intentionality, you can still find ways to safely include aging friends and family in festivities — or even start a new tradition — and remind them you care.”
While distance may keep older adults separate from those they love, family caregivers can make it a special, festive time of year for aging loved ones by giving a unique gift, creating a new memory and by offering family and friends creative ways to connect. Hogan recommends the following gift ideas for seniors on your holiday list.
5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Older Adults
- Gifts to look forward to. The holidays are all about spending time with one another. While in-person celebrations might not be possible for everyone this year, there are virtual options to continue creating memories. For example, if your loved one is a beer or wine enthusiast, book a private virtual tasting through online vineyards. If they’re in need of a good laugh, book tickets to an online comedy show. If they’re looking for fun ways to stay active at home, consider signing them up for a virtual fitness program designed for older adults.
- Nostalgic or sentimental gifts. Custom mementos — such as scrapbooks, photo phone cases or a digitized home movie — can prompt seniors to reminisce and share stories of years gone by. Or, express your love through words by inviting friends or family to fill an album or shadow box with short notes or letters. Share an uplifting message or recount an experience from his or her life.
- Practical gifts. A gift doesn’t need to be large and expensive to be meaningful — a blanket, socks or gift cards are among the most popular items on seniors’ wish lists. A voucher to a favourite restaurant or meal delivery service can be the perfect gift for those who might want a night off from cooking.
- Gifts to keep entertained and busy. Books, jigsaw and crossword puzzles can serve as a great source of entertainment, keep the mind active and prevent boredom, especially if a senior is stuck at home during the winter. Consider purchasing a monthly subscription box to deliver a surprise to their doorstep every month. There are countless options and themes available, from cooking to books to candles to gardening.
- The gift of a new holiday tradition. The decision to celebrate virtually or socially distanced will be personal and influenced by a confluence of factors — such as local regulations and preexisting health conditions of your attendees. If an older adult can’t celebrate in person, adapt your favourite holiday traditions to keep them connected. Send a few special ornaments or a sachet of fragrant-dried balsam pine needles so they can enjoy the Christmas tree smell. Or, decorate their doorstep with holiday wreaths, garlands, strings of lights and battery-powered candles.
As you wrap up holiday shopping, it’s important to acknowledge that celebrations will likely be different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gift yourself time and space to grieve this reality — and then, let go of past expectations and comparisons you’ve held onto. By reminding yourself of the true reasons you celebrate, you can navigate this season with hope, peace and joy.
If you need more gift suggestions, ideas for celebrations and a holiday checklist to keep your aging loved one healthy and safe during the pandemic Home Instead has more, free resources available.