Though the holiday season is typically considered a time for celebration, the experience can be very different for older adults. Increased isolation at this time of year often leads to feelings of sadness or loneliness. If there’s a loved one in your life that may be feeling lonely during the holidays, read on to learn about common causes and tips for how to help.
Common Causes of Holiday Loneliness for Seniors
You might be surprised to learn holiday loneliness isn’t as uncommon as it would seem. In fact, an AARP study found 31% of respondents felt lonely during the holiday season sometime during the past five years. Additionally, another 41% worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome.
For older adults, certain life circumstances can make this time of year especially difficult. As you think about those closest to you, these are some of the challenges that lead to increased loneliness and isolation:
Family is Far Away
The holidays put an emphasis on spending meaningful time with friends and family. However, as children grow up and move away or neighbors are no longer in the community, the opportunity for close connections becomes limited. Many older adults find themselves without loved ones nearby. With this increased distance, they may withdraw from normal social activities and become increasingly isolated.
Financial or Physical Limitations
Though many dream of a white Christmas, this can create additional challenges for older adults in cold climates. The arrival of snow and ice means simple tasks like driving to the store or taking a walk become difficult or even dangerous. In this situation, it’s no surprise many look to warmer climates like Florida that lessen seasonal impacts on daily life. Beyond facing physical challenges, financial limitations are also a factor for older adults. Living on a fixed income requires careful spending, making travel or gift shopping more of a challenge.
Loss of Familiar Traditions
Cherished traditions we can look forward to all year long are one of the things that make the holidays so special. As some of these traditions start to fade away or change with age, it ends up sapping enthusiasm for celebrating the season. Further, reminiscing on good times come and gone can fuel feelings of loneliness or sadness that things aren’t the way they used to be. It’s not unusual for older adults to start to feel like there’s nothing exciting for them to enjoy.
5 Ways to Help Seniors Deal with Holiday Loneliness
The impacts of holiday loneliness end up being felt long after the season has passed. Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests loneliness and isolation in older adults can be linked to serious health conditions. The detrimental effects may even rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
As you think about those in your life who are struggling, there are a number of ways you can help them break out of this cycle. Here are five ways to increase social interaction and make older adults feel appreciated and included in holiday celebrations:
1. Make Yourself Available
The holiday season is a busy time for everyone. It’s easy to get caught up in shopping for gifts or making meal preparations and forget to check in with loved ones. During this time, make a conscious effort to be available for those who might be feeling isolated. Consider putting a regular call on your calendar or encouraging other family members to reach out with a video call or old-fashioned letter. All it takes is a little initiative to get the ball rolling.
2. Talk Honestly
During a time when joy and cheer are the norm, no one wants to feel like they’re putting a damper on the enjoyment of others. At the same time, being able to openly express your feelings can help to better understand and mitigate feelings of loneliness. For anyone who might be struggling with holiday loneliness, provide a comfortable space for them to talk. Save judgments or problem solving and simply have a genuine conversation.
3. Consider Their Needs
It might feel like extending an invitation is enough to make others feel included, but this isn’t always the case. Gathering with a crowd of strangers who have little in common can still feel very lonely. As you plan parties or celebrations, look for ways to be inclusive. If transportation is an issue, offer a safe ride to and from the event. Sometimes loud music and big crowds can be intimidating. Try having an earlier gathering where older adults can connect with friends and family on a comfortable level.
4. Celebrate Their Traditions
Dwelling on the past can lead to a lot of sadness when you don’t have someone to share your traditions with. Be open to asking about favorite memories and incorporating them into your celebrations. This could be anything from hanging treasured childhood ornaments on the tree to singing traditional carols with grandkids. Being recognized and honored goes a long way in combating loneliness.
5. Start Something New
Sometimes a fresh start is the best path forward. As we age, our hobbies and passions change with time. Something that used to be meaningful just might not be as interesting today. Try and discover what would make the holiday season feel special for others. Be open to incorporating those traditions with yours to create a celebration that’s inclusive of everyone.
How The Waterford Community Helps Seniors Fight Loneliness
The Waterford is a senior living community unlike any other. We’re dedicated to helping residents make the most of what life has to offer and the ample opportunities available in our Juno Beach, Florida location. Whether it’s playing a round of golf with your neighbors or relaxing poolside on a beautiful, sunny day, our goal is to nurture mind, body and spirit.
With a rich community life, residents can live a maintenance-free lifestyle that allows them to focus on their passions. Beyond that, wellness is at the heart of everything we do. The Waterford puts an emphasis on healthy dining options, fitness programs, social activities and outings that make everyone feel connected and engaged. Better yet, we have a skilled team of professionals available to offer a wide variety of essential health services around the clock.
If this sounds like a community where you or a loved one could thrive, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our dedicated team is ready to answer any questions you have and show you what makes The Waterford so special.