Helping Seniors to Feel Less Lonely During the Holidays

January 1, 2020 by Institute on Aging
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The holiday season can be tough for many seniors, especially when they live in the most expensive area of the United States and on a fixed income.

Not only that, but seniors in San Francisco are the fastest growing population, according to the Department of Disability and Aging Services. Currently, 23% of all residents are 60 or older and that percentage is only increasing as the population, as a whole, ages. 

Because many seniors live alone after spouses and friends die and family members moves away, thereby decreasing their social outlets, the holidays can be a challenging time for them. If you know someone in this situation, here are a few easy-to-do ideas on how you can help make their holiday feel a bit more joyful:

  1. Make sure they know that spending time with you is all you would like from them as a “gift” this year. Seniors on a fixed income may find gift giving to be daunting, so why not take the pressure off?  If they still want to give presents, perhaps help them out with a few creative, lower-cost gift ideas.
  2. Take time to talk about their favorite holiday memories. Many seniors remember their younger days when they were able to host dinners and gatherings, but may also feel sad that they can no longer do this. However, they may find comfort in reliving their memories of past holidays, and perhaps looking at old holiday photos and videos.
  3. Take a senior out on a car ride to see holiday lights. They can enjoy all of it from the comfort of a car seat. Bring along a thermos full of hot chocolate, and pull over in a particularly festive spot to enjoy a cup with them.
  4. If they are no longer able to decorate their living space, do it for them. Even a small wreath, a few ornaments or even a mini-Christmas tree can add a lot of cheer.
  5. Help them read their holiday cards. Many older people have exchanged cards with friends for many years, and this may be the only time they hear from those individuals. It’s often when people discover that someone they knew has passed on, which can be a reminder of their own impermanence. Take time to discuss what’s in the cards, and if they want, help them write a note of their own to send out. 

Remember that small, yet thoughtful, gestures can make big difference to an older adult, especially ones who live alone and are isolated. A little bit goes a long way.

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