What do you think when you think of the holidays?
Maybe you think of gifts, of busyness, of Christmas music and twinkling lights. Maybe you think of food, of treats, of family and friends. You think of lovely, wonderful things. But for many elderly people, Christmastime simply means loneliness.
Too many seniors are lonely, and during the holidays the sting is especially sharp. They live alone in nursing home rooms, or in the emptiness of the house where they raised their now-adult children. Sometimes this is their family’s fault, but sometimes not. A man or woman may have no children and few friends. Some do have loving children, but they live far away and cannot afford visit often.
Or maybe you’re not elderly, but have aging parents who live in a nursing home in the same town as you. You don’t know how to show them care at this time of year when memories of the past and of departed loved ones are especially painful.
Here are some gift ideas to help ease the loneliness and bring a smile to the faces of your aging loved ones:
- A photo album or scrapbook. Reminiscing is a nice way to recall the things in life that mean the most, and keep an aging loved one feeling positive. Did your mom live in the same house for 50 years and have to move into a nursing home last year? Making a scrapbook for her of pictures taken in that house may cheer her up and remind her that though the house is gone, the happy memories remain.
- Framed photographs. On the same note as the previous point, photographs of loved ones or beloved pets can mean a lot to someone who lives alone and can’t spend much time with family. Surrounding them with pictures of those they love can remind them that they are loved.
- A pet, if a living situation and/or sinuses allow. Pets offer unconditional love and constant companionship. Caring for the pet can also renew the sense of meaning and purpose for a senior who cannot be as active as he or she used to be.
- A gift card to a local bookstore or favorite hobby shop. This can not only provide resources for a favorite activity, but can also be a gateway to striking up a rapport with similarly interested people, or inspire your senior to join a local book club or a crafting group.
- Your presence. You don’t know how much simply being there can mean to a lonely older person. Visit them if they’re housebound. If possible, invite them to join your festivities and introduce them to your friends and family. Caution: Be sensitive to what an individual will or will not be comfortable with. Not everyone may enjoy a big family party. But you can never know how much you’ll mean to a lonely person, simply by offering to spend time with them.
If you don’t have your own aging family member nearby, adopt one! Find that elderly woman on your street who lives alone. Invite her over for Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. Visit that man in the nursing home.Bring him cookies or some handmade Christmas crafts. Wish them a Merry Christmas.You’ll never know how much such a gift will mean to someone.
If you struggle with loneliness, whether you’re elderly or not, this article could help you take steps to cope with and overcome it.
We wish you all a good holiday season.