Contrary to popular belief, the holidays aren’t always the most wonderful time of year. While for some individuals the holiday season is an opportunity to surround themselves with the people they care about most, for others, especially older adults, it can be an isolating time. If you have someone in your life who might be experiencing increased loneliness during the holidays, there are ways you can help them feel loved and included.
Why Do Seniors Experience Holiday Loneliness?
While we often associate the holidays with cheer, it is not uncommon for people to experience feelings of loneliness. According to a study by the AARP, 31% of respondents reported feeling lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years, while 41% of respondents admitted to being worried about a friend or family member feeling lonesome.
Anxiety, loneliness and depression during the holiday season can be especially common for seniors, and there are a handful of reasons seniors might be more vulnerable than others.
Far-Flung Family and Friends
As you can imagine, few people like to spend the holidays alone. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to gather their family and friends under one roof. There are older adults who may have been able to celebrate with their family and friends in the past, which only makes it more difficult emotionally when those same friends and family are not able to get together now. There are seniors who may feel surrounded by reminders of the loved ones they’ve lost when they see other families able to gather with their respective loved ones during the holidays.
You can make holiday plans, but there is no guarantee that Mother Nature will cooperate. The winters in Kansas are typically mild, but it’s not uncommon for a winter storm to impact travel plans. Whether traveling locally or to a state farther north, there’s always the possibility of ice and snow during the winter. Imagine being an older adult traveling for the holidays during bad weather. An already stressful and exhausting experience is made worse by weather woes and can cause travel plans to be cancelled, furthering feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Believe it or not, not everyone looks forward to the holidays. Even people who may have once loved the holiday season can come to loathe it over time. There are certainly older adults turned off by the commercialization of the holidays, or who simply feel like celebrating the holidays has become more work than it’s worth. It’s easy to grow cynical about the season over time, which can lead older individuals to withdraw during the holidays, rather than reach out.
4 Ways to Help Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
Now that you have a better understanding of why seniors may be vulnerable to loneliness during the holidays, know that there are ways you can make a difference in their life:
1. Reach Out
Making meaningful connections is what the holidays are all about. Rather than a quick phone call on Christmas morning, consider how you can reach out to the older adults in your life and make sure they understand how much you care. The more thought and effort you put into it, the more likely your loved ones are to feel as if you genuinely care about them. It’s not always easy to put in the necessary work around the holidays to maintain your relationships, but it can be easy for your loved ones to feel alone when your communication is limited to a quick call.
2. Take Time to Listen
You may think you understand how your parent or grandparent is feeling during the holidays, but the best way to ensure they feel heard is to listen. The older adults in your life may not always be willing to initiate the conversation and talk about their feelings, so it’s important you take the first step and make clear you can be a sounding board when they need someone to talk to. Allowing seniors to be vulnerable will not only help them open up and talk about their feelings, but you will also gain a better understanding of what’s going through their minds.
3. Look for Familiarity
Cherished traditions are a staple of the holiday season, but not all traditions endure through the years. When those traditions have been reduced to nothing more than memories for the seniors in your life, those individuals can begin to withdraw and feel isolated. To help rekindle those familiar feelings and remind the seniors in your life why the holidays once brought them such joy, look for ways to incorporate elements of holiday traditions past into your traditions of today.
4. Find New Sources of Enjoyment
Conversely, you can also embrace change and create new traditions for the holidays. The key is to tailor these new traditions to appeal to the older adults in your life. You don’t have to recreate the traditions of the past. Instead, look at what hobbies and interests your loved ones share today and identify activities they would find enjoyable. If you have seniors who love to cook or bake, find new recipes. If they love watching movies, introduce them to a modern classic.
How Claridge Court Helps Reduce Loneliness During the Holidays
Togetherness is what Claridge Court is all about. Our residents live independently but know they have the support of our team and the benefit of being surrounded by neighbors who often share their same interests and life experiences. Each and every resident is empowered to live their life the way they want, with the knowledge that each resident is part of a community that can provide support, whatever their needs. Not to mention the fact that in addition to a variety of amenities and services located within the community, Claridge Court is also within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment options. There is never a shortage of things to do here, and there are always familiar faces around if residents want the company.
If our community at Claridge Court could help someone you know who is struggling with loneliness, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re available and ready to answer any questions you have. Contact us today to discover for yourself what makes Claridge Court so special.