It’s December, and the Holiday Season is in full swing – a time where many of us are focused on spending time with family and friends. There is a lot of pressure on people to enjoy themselves during the holidays. The season is supposed to be merry and bright, but the reality is that many seniors feel increasingly isolated and unhappy during this time of the year. This feeling is expected to increase even more this year due to COVID-19 circumstances; many of us are not able to celebrate with family.
It is understandable that families and loved ones are extra concerned about seniors feeling lonely during the holidays this year. We've put together some tips on how to reduce feelings of loneliness in seniors during this period.
1. Make communication a priority
Some older adults go days with speaking without anyone, especially those with limited mobility and transportation options or those in poor health. In-person visits are the best way to keep each other company, but if you can't see each other around the holidays, try to pick up the phone to give them a call or video-call. Make sure to reach out prior to the actual holiday as well, so the older adult in your life does not feel as though they have been forgotten during this special time in the year.
Keep this communication going in the new year. Set aside at least a few minutes every week to talk to the older adult in your life - it can make a world of a difference.
2. Remind them how important they are
Life is busy, especially when you're working, raising children, maintaining a social life, exercising and everything else. It's easy to forget to call or visit your elderly loved ones. During this time of the year, make sure to remind them how important they are as part of your life, your family members' lives and these annual celebrations. They may feel useless or burdensome if they cannot contribute or fully participate in the festivities like they used to. Encourage them to do what they are capable of and do not make them feel like a burden.
3. Encourage and facilitate social activities
Social activities can be extremely uplifting for seniors who are experiencing feeling of loneliness. Many religious organisations offer social and spiritual support, even more so during the holidays. Check with local organisations (religious and non-religious, such as local senior centres) if there is anything your loved one can participate in. If your elderly is living in an aged care facility, check whether they have an activities program and encourage them to participate in these events.
If possible, offer to join them on their first trip to reduce feelings of anxiety.
4. Explore hobbies
Hobbies are a great way to keep busy and forget about your worries for a moment (at all ages!). Encourage your elderly loved one to get back into their old hobbies or to try something new. A big plus with hobbies is that there are often options to socialise around it - such as book clubs, knitting circles or art groups. When trying a new hobby, adult education classes are a great way to both learn the skills and meet new people with similar interests!
Having a hobby during the holidays can keep your loved one busy, especially if they do not have family around.
Do what you can to help your ageing loved one feel involved and get into the holiday spirit, without stressing yourself beyond your limits. If you put too much on your own plate, neither you nor your loved ones will enjoy the festivities nearly as much. Remember that most families are facing difficulties, and celebrations are likely to look different this year. Your best efforts are good enough.
Where to get more help
Feeling lonely or isolated for an extended time could be a sign of depression. If you or your loved one are experiencing these feelings, make sure to have chat to your doctor, counsellor, or one of the organisations below might be able to help you.
- Kids Helpline (ages 5 to 25) — call 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue — call 1300 22 4636
- headspace (ages 12 to 25) — call 1800 650 890
- ReachOut.com (youth mental health service)
- MensLine Australia (men only) — call 1300 78 99 78
- SANE Australia — call 1800 18 7263
- Lifeline — call 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service — call 1300 659 467