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10 Ways to Keep Holiday Traditions Senior-Friendly

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Every year, the family looks forward to Mom’s famous turkey dinner with all the fixings. She starts her preparations early in the morning and it’s not long before delicious smells of green bean casserole, homemade stuffing and roast turkey reach every corner of the house. But the past couple of years, Mom has definitely lost her stamina. The family has noticed that making the meal wears on Mom like it never has before. Last year, she was exhausted for the entire following week. This year, she needed to sit to peel the potatoes and mix the stuffing.

Such gradual changes are a sad trend that many family caregivers know well. But theses stages of aging don’t need to steal the joy from older adults and sideline them for all holidays to come. Following are 10 ways to adapt popular holiday traditions – from the Home Instead® network and professionals at the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging – that can help seniors continue to enjoy the festivities.

  1. Reconsider the menu. If Mom can no longer handle preparing and cooking the traditional meal on her own, make it a group effort. It’s a win-win: Mom can supervise and the next generation can learn all the secrets to making those favorite family recipes.
  2. Mix it up. Older adults are usually most alert and at their best earlier in the day. Why not plan a holiday brunch rather than a lunch, or attend a daytime religious service instead of the evening one?
  3. Think simple. You may love seeing the family home all decked out for the season, but hauling boxes of decorations may become impossible for seniors who struggle with mobility and balance issues. Get together with family and friends and decide which holiday decorating traditions to keep and what to forego.
  4. Be their eyes, hands and feet. When arthritis prevents seniors from writing cards or macular degeneration damages eyesight and makes it difficult to shop for gifts, you can offer to take on those tasks. If time is short, suggest more efficient options such as online shopping and sending e-cards.
  5. Compensate when necessary. If hearing impairment keeps Dad from enjoying the annual holiday movie, check out the latest sound enhancement technology. If Mom is having trouble seeing the deck of playing cards, look for large print cards or activities that can help keep her in the game.
  6. Hit the road. You no doubt remember it as a child – those holiday light tours that you and your parents loved. A holiday driving tour is an easy way to bring back the memories and joy to an older adult who can no longer decorate.
  7. Go Skype. Distance can separate older adults from loved ones, which exacerbates loneliness, isolation and depression during the holidays. Use the latest technology to help an older adult stay connected to loved ones from afar.
  8. Relive memorable moments. Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will especially appreciate opportunities to tap into old memories. Listen to favorite carols and ask your loved one to share his or her most vivid memories, like taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride or hunting game for the holiday meal.
  9. Make new memories. Sometimes, things must change. If an older adult can’t participate in the holiday or is hospitalized, why not create a simple video that shares highlights of the season? Or arrange to have a group sing carols to your senior loved one – traditional songs from his or her generation.
  10. Get help – fast! One of the best ways to adapt holiday activities is to ask for help. Enlisting the help of a professional caregiver to help with meal preparation or to provide transportation for your loved one can lighten the load for families and free them up to maximize special holiday time with their senior loved one.
Last revised: September 27, 2012

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 10, 2015 at 10:01 am | Posted by Jean P. Sparrow

    I am very blessed, as I have a daughter-in-law who likes to shop, and she shops for me, I have 10 grandchildren and their spouses, and 9 great grandchildren. She and my son also have me for Thanksgiving dinner and hopefully I will be at their home Christmas Day. I have 4 other son's, but they live other places. I am thankful for the family that lives near by. I'm 88, and I've had health problems, but feel better and am able to drive again.I have a friend who is 93, so We try to go to lunch once a week.(And I am thankful That I can pick her up) I may at some time or other need a Home Instead Care person. Glad to know about you. Thank you, Jean Pressley Sparrow.


  2. October 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Posted by Richard Parr

    Thank you for the info. I am involved in The Community Cares Ministry with The Salvation Army here in Swift Current,Saskatchewan Canada. I find some of your material very helpful.


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