The Christmas season has long since been a tradition of surrounding yourself with those you care about most. Even during the coldest season of the year, being able to visit your loved ones brings warmth and comfort to family members. But as people age and their lives progress, it can be increasingly difficult to be able to bring family together to share those special moments.
Seniors have an even tougher time during the holidays as they do not necessarily have the means of visiting family due to financial or mobility issues. Adding to this, many of their weekly programs and activities are generally run by community volunteers and during the holidays it's not guaranteed that those volunteers will stay to provide those programs. This can cause an increase in loneliness and stress in our aging loved ones which may have a negative impact on their health.
If your elderly loved one has trouble travelling for the holidays, there are still a number of ways that you can include them in your holiday plans to help ensure they feel connected and cared for during the cold winter.
Keep Family Traditions Alive
Christmas traditions are the centre piece of the holidays and are what bring people together each year. Christmas music, food and entertainment all come around year after year to remind everyone the holiday season is in the air. Our seniors know these traditions better than most as they were the ones who helped pass them down and give them meaning to younger generations.
Here are some examples of traditions you or your family’s caregiver can share with your elderly loved one to help them get into the Christmas spirit:
Technology and the internet have helped make online communication more preferred over the classic method of mailing your cards out. While this saves time, we often forget that our aging parents were always used to receiving mail they could hold in their hand. Even if your family no longer sends out physical Christmas cards, you should consider making one specifically for an aging family member who you may not be able to visit this holiday season. While the internet seems easy for many of us, a lot of seniors still prefer to receive mail - especially if it's a personalized card letting them know about their family.
It's no mystery that the majority of classic Christmas songs all came from the 1940s and beyond. Every Christmas season we can count on hearing the familiar voices of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, to name a few, get us in the holiday spirit. Music has the power to reconnect you to past memories, and for our seniors who have been hearing the familiar songs for years, it can be an extra special nostalgia trip that allows them to relive the magic of past Christmases.
A big part of the holiday spirit is the buildup and anticipation of Christmas day. The advent calendar was always a special part of Christmas as families would enjoy small Christmas themed gift each day, eventually leading up to Christmas day. This is a great example of something small that your aging loved one can do each and every day that can remind them that Christmas is coming and helps keep them connected with their loved ones throughout the month.
Connecting Through Technology
With the rise of technology, our ability to effectively communicate with people are the world has been greatly improved. Distance is no longer a barrier to letting someone know you care and that fact should be remembered for families who are unable to visit a loved one for the holidays. You don’t need to feel guilty for planning a vacation during the holidays as it's also one of the rare times of the year working adults can take a break as well.
We wanted to explore some options families have to connect with their aging loved one through technology as well as recommend specific apps they can use:
Videos and Pictures
Creating home videos and photo albums and sharing them has become easier than ever. Just about every smartphone and laptop has built-in camera and seamless integration to share with family on social media, email or directly through a text. This means you can easily create quick home videos or albums for your aging family member who may not be able to travel with your family for the holidays, and share it with them or their caregiver to ensure they can feel included. Capturing your family opening gifts or partaking in a Christmas tradition will be sure to put a smile on your aging loved one’s face.
Suggested apps: Facebook, Instagram, Google Photos, and Flickr.
The emergence of applications such as Skype and Google Hangouts have given video calls and conferencing a big advantage over traditional calling when you want to make it personal. It's easier to simulate a real conversation when you can see the person. This is a great thing to consider for families who want to call their loved one of the holiday, as you can have your entire family join in on the video call so when your loved one answers they are greeted with everyone they hope to see during the holidays. Coordinate with your loved ones caregiver to plan a time to set up a video call and it will leave a more positive impact then a simple phone call would.
Suggested apps: Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Apple FaceTime.
Companies are also starting to acknowledge the fact that many seniors can get overwhelmed with all the apps that are used and can prefer to avoid them. A recent article from the Toronto Star has reported that a research lab at the University of Toronto has started developing technology that looks to make it simple for seniors to stay involved with their families who primarily use social media. Since there are so many different apps that accomplish many different things, it can be difficult for seniors who only want to see updates specifically from their families. The new app will streamline all of the popular social media apps into one, making it so seniors only have to learn how to use one app in order to enjoy the benefits of them all. This is perfect for seniors who are not interested in learning every new app that comes out, but would still love to be connected with their families.
A Little Can Go a Long Way
Showing our seniors we are thinking of them during the holidays doesn’t have to be a large commitment. With the help of established Christmas traditions and the rise of mobile communication, you can easily express to your elderly loved one that they aren’t being forgotten.