'Tis the season to deck the halls, gather around the tree and enjoy quality time together.
By giving a unique gift, creating a new memory or by offering family and friends creative ways to connect, you can ensure a special, festive holiday for aging loved ones.
Keep in mind that the holiday season can be a time of heightened feelings of loneliness and depression for older adults, making connections all the more important.
Recent data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging revealed striking increases in feelings of loneliness from the first results of the study (2011 to 2015) to COVID-19 (April to December 2020). It is estimated that there was a 67% increase in loneliness for women aged 65 to 74, and 37% for those aged 75 to 84. Smaller increases were observed for men, where there is a 45% relative rise for men aged 65 to 74 and 33% for the oldest group.
Due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and influenza, some older adults still may not feel comfortable at large gatherings. It’s important to know their comfort level and find ways to connect that will keep them safe, but still part of the festivities.
“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,” says Dr. Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead.
5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Older Adults
- Gifts to look forward to. There are a variety of virtual gift options that older adults will love, whether they are gifted in-person or from afar. These gifts give older adults something to look forward to doing in their downtime after the holidays. 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, warm socks or gift cards are among the most popular items on seniors’ wish lists. A voucher to a favorite 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. If an older adult can’t celebrate in person, adapt your favorite 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 or room with holiday wreaths, garlands, strings of lights and battery-powered candles.
As you wrap up holiday shopping, it’s important to acknowledge that celebrations may need to change from year-to-year, oftentimes to accommodate the changing medical or mobility needs of aging loved ones. Let go of past expectations and comparisons and remind yourself of the true reasons you celebrate. Then you can navigate this season with hope, peace and joy.
Check out these additional free resources to keep your aging loved one healthy and safe.