The holiday season is typically a time of year reserved for fun and festivities. However, for many older adults it can create feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you’re concerned about a senior in your life who might be experiencing loneliness or depression during the holidays, there are a number of simple ways you can help these individuals feel included and appreciated.
Why Do Seniors Experience Holiday Loneliness?
It can be difficult for people to understand why feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression are common around the holidays, especially with seniors. When we think of the holidays, we typically look back on cherished memories surrounded by family and friends. But not everyone shares that same experience. In fact, a study by the AARP discovered 31% of respondents said they had felt lonely during the holiday season sometime in the past five years.
If there’s an older adult in your life who seems depressed or withdrawn around the holidays, these are some of the most common reasons they might be experiencing loneliness.
Far-Flung Family and Friends
Holidays are meant to be spent in the company of friends and family, but that isn’t always possible for everyone. As children get older, families often become more spread out, making it increasingly difficult to get everyone back under one roof. The same can be said of close friends and neighbors, as those relationships may drift apart over the years. These life changes can make the holidays especially difficult for older adults who are alone this time of year and see other families around them who are able to gather and spend quality time together.
One of the downsides of the holiday season is the winter weather. Minnesotans are all too familiar with the cold temperatures and the ice and snow that the winter months bring to the area. The conditions can make travel very difficult, and traveling can already be an exhausting and stressful experience for older adults. Even if they are not traveling far, ice-covered roads are treacherous to navigate for anyone, not just seniors. It can be easy to feel isolated when the weather keeps seniors from gathering with their loved ones for the holidays.
Time has a way of wearing people down. It can even lead individuals to loathe things they may have once loved. For some older adults, the holidays may not be the time of cheer they remember from memories past. The parts of the holiday that have been a source of joy and happiness for these seniors may not have that same effect anymore. These individuals may begin to withdraw during the holidays, rather than reach out for the warm embrace of loved ones.
4 Ways to Help Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
If there is an older adult in your life who might be experiencing loneliness or depression during the holidays, there are a number of ways you can bring cheer into their lives:
1. Reach Out
The easiest way to show someone you care is to take the initiative and reach out. We’ve all made phone calls on Christmas morning to our loved ones, but sometimes you have to go a step further and be more intentional about how you are communicating. The more thought and effort you put into your outreach, the more meaningful it will be. Older adults can feel especially isolated when they only receive phone calls every once in a while, so try to find ways to make it clear how much you care.
2. Take Time to Listen
Reaching out is only the first step. It’s what happens after you’ve made the connection that is arguably the most important. Let the older adults in your life know you are willing to listen when they need someone to talk to. Chances are, your elders are not going to open up to you without an invitation. Once the seniors in your life feel comfortable looking to you as a sounding board for their true thoughts and feelings without judgement, you’ll have a healthier relationship with your loved one, who may not be as vulnerable to feelings of loneliness.
3. Look for Familiarity
Traditions are a hallmark of the holiday season, which is why the holidays can be difficult for seniors whose traditions have become a distant memory to them. The holidays may not feel the same anymore, which can lead older adults to withdraw altogether. If you have a senior in your life who may be struggling because the holidays no longer hold the same appeal, look for opportunities to incorporate familiar elements of their traditions into your new ones.
4. Find New Sources of Enjoyment
Every tradition has to start somewhere. Instead of looking to the past and lamenting bygone traditions, sometimes the best thing you can do is move forward and establish new traditions. Just be thoughtful about the traditions you adopt. Come up with new traditions that are going to appeal to your friends and family, especially older adults who may be wary of change. Find activities that tie into their hobbies or interests so that they feel engaged by them.
How Friendship Village of Bloomington Helps Reduce Loneliness During the Holidays
As you can imagine, a place called Friendship Village of Bloomington is built on meaningful connections. Our community is full of outgoing residents who share common interests with their neighbors and enjoy embarking on social outings to the museum, symphony and theater. Minnesotans are unlike people you’ll find anywhere else in their generosity of spirit, always thinking of others and willing to put in the work to create a warm and welcoming community.
We are also proud to have a team that works tirelessly to provide for the needs of our residents, removing their obligations so that older adults who call our community home can live the active and fulfilling lives they deserve, with a variety of community services and amenities close by.
No matter the season, we are here to answer your questions and show you what makes our community so special. If you’re interested in learning more about life at Friendship Village of Bloomington, please don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience.