Six Holiday Activities to Share While Visiting With Your Aging Loved One
The holidays are a wonderful time to visit with aging loved ones. In addition to spreading good cheer to seniors who may feel lonely or isolated during this usually festive time of year, these visits have profound benefits for all parties. Wondering how to make the most of your visit? Planning an activity in advance can help keep your aging loved one engaged while simultaneously creating unforgettable memories for both of you. Consider these six senior-friendly holiday activities.
1. Cook a Favorite Recipe
If your aging loved one lives in an apartment or home with a kitchen, cooking is a terrific way to connect. Does she have any favorite holiday foods? Making and sharing a meal together isn’t just a tasty treat. Cooking stimulates the senses, which can evoke happy memories and feelings of comfort for seniors.
2. Pet Power
An abundance of research points to the value of pet therapy for seniors. From boosting heart and lung function to decreasing anxiety, time with four-legged friends has near-endless benefits for seniors. Pet therapy has even been linked with increased longevity! If your pet’s temperament is suitable, arrange to bring it along for a visit. Just be sure to check out the pet policy if your loved one lives in a senior living community.
3. Talk a Stroll Down Memory Lane
Looking at old photos offers profound benefits for seniors and visitors alike. In stimulating memories, visual aids can help seniors rediscover a sense of self. Meanwhile, other members of the family gain access to invaluable family histories. If your aging loved one struggles with names and faces, don’t push. Instead, use the photos to prompt whatever memories arise. If possible, bring multiple generations along for a first-hand learning experience. Plus, children are often one of the simplest ways to brighten a senior’s day.
Don't have family photos handy? Listening to music together can also help seniors and loved ones connect in new and exciting ways.
4. Color, Craft, Create
Whether you bring along a Christmas craft, such as making an ornament, or pick up a holiday themed coloring book and colored pencils, engaging your aging loved one’s creative side offers benefits for both body and soul. One more reason to give coloring a go? This structured, rhythmical act is thought to release serotonin, AKA “the calming chemical.”
These benefits aren’t just limited to seniors. When the holiday hustle and bustle sets in, who couldn’t use a few minutes to relax and decompress?
5. Share a Meal
Social eating opportunities can be few and far between for seniors. If your aging loved one lives alone and is able to get out and about, a lunch date at a local restaurant can be an enjoyable experience. If your aging loved one lives in a senior living community, try scheduling your visit during meal time. She'll love showing off her visitors to fellow community members in the dining hall. Again, be sure to bring the grandchildren along!
6. Deck the Halls
Because many seniors suffer from dexterity and mobility issues which impede their ability to decorate for the holidays, why not show up ready to deck the halls? From garlands and wreaths to ornaments and space-friendly Christmas trees, there are plenty of ways -- big and small -- to add festive flair to your loved one’s living space.
Another way to help her get in the mood while maintaining a sense of connection with the surrounding world? Help her write and send holiday cards.
One parting thought... in order to make the most of your time together, be sure to take your aging loved one’s cognitive and physical capabilities into account. And remember: While the holidays can be challenging times for seniors, thoughtful visits from loved ones can indeed make the days “merry and bright.”
- Planning an activity in advance can help keep seniors engaged while making lasting memories.
- Let your aging loved one be your guide when planning and implementing activities. If she loses interest or becomes overwhelmed, shift gears to a different activity.
- Because seniors are particularly vulnerable to the “holiday blues,” visits from family members and friends can go a long way toward offsetting this phenomenon.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.