By all accounts, 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us. Political tensions, racial unrest, global disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have stretched us thin. As we turn another page on the calendar and look towards the holidays, many of us are starting to look forward to seeing friends and family (albeit in a socially-distanced, masked and hand-sanitized sort of way). However, so many senior citizens in our community are facing the holidays with the knowledge that they may be alone this year. That breaks our hearts. Want to know how to help senior citizens during COVID Christmas season?
We have put together a list of ways we can remember our older loved ones this holiday. Take a read, take some notes and take action now to bring Christmas cheer to someone this year!
How to Help Senior Citizens During COVID Christmas Season – 14 Worthwhile Ideas to Consider
By Tim Murray, Aware Senior Care
- Send a handwritten note. Or a drawing from your children. Adding a personal touch to a note by writing it yourself sends a special message to your loved one.
- Visit (when possible) and bring grand- or great-grandchildren along. Children are a joy to their grandparents and great-grandparents. Encourage them to bring a holiday book to read together, sing some special holiday songs (over FaceTime) or share a family recipe treat that you both love to eat this time of year.
- Make a donation to their favorite charitable organization in their name. Charities across the country are facing tighter budgets after this year. Ask your loved one to share a few of their favorite charities with you, and make a generous gift to that organization in the name of your loved one. Drop a note in a pretty card mentioning the gift and send it in the mail to your family member or friend so they can share in the meaningful donation with you.
- Be a “virtual volunteer.” Many people assume that it’s not possible to volunteer right now because of COVID-19 restrictions. That may be the case for some non-profit organizations, but others, like Meals on Wheels, are still working with volunteers every week to deliver meals to homebound neighbors. Local food banks are also bringing in volunteers in shifts and smaller groups to help organize food donations and more. Look online to find ways you can become a “virtual volunteer” in your community.
- Contact a local nursing home and ask how you can help. Sometimes the easiest way to figure out where you can be useful is by simply asking, “How can I help?” Find a local assisted living facility near you and give them a ring. While you probably can’t join up with your church choir to sing Christmas carols to residents this year, there may be other ways you can help residents feel the joy of the holidays.
- Help them make a gratitude list to help focus on the positives in their life. It’s so easy for all of us to see the negative things happening around us and forget the beauty of the everyday. Make a cup of tea and sit down in person (if possible) or over the phone with your loved one and come up with 10 things they’re grateful for right now. It could be something that happened today or even the mundane but memorable parts of life like a sunset, the laughter of a friend, or snuggling with their dog on the couch. Keeping an attitude of gratitude helps us to focus on what’s going right, rather than what’s going wrong, in our lives. We could all benefit from this one!
- Send a movie and microwave popcorn or make some homemade movies with family and friends to share with them. Who doesn’t love curling up at home with a good movie and some buttery popcorn? Ask your loved one to share the names of a few of their favorite movies for you to bring over. You can help them stream them online or rent them from the local library. If they’re not a movie buff, you could grab your smart phone and make some funny family home movies to share!
- Play games on a smart phone together. Here’s a simple way to use technology to help us stay connected to our neighbors. Challenge them to a favorite game on their phone! Do they love Scrabble? Try Words with Friends. How about FlipFlop Solitaire, an updated version of the old-school card game? Both of these are free downloads, and there are countless other options for whatever you might like to play! Multi-player games for mobile devices are a great way to stay connected.
- Organize a night for “caroling” outside their home or nursing home. While singing in groups may not be the best choice this year, why not organize a socially-distanced sing-a-long outside their home or nursing home? You could play a selection of holiday classics on Spotify, encourage everyone to bring their favorite warm drink, and enjoy the holiday musical concert.
- Order a Thanksgiving meal and have it delivered to them. For senior citizens living alone, cooking a delicious holiday meal can be daunting. They may no longer have the physical ability to grocery shop and cook, or it might be that the idea of throwing a 10-pound turkey in the oven seems like too much for one person. Make things easy for them by inviting them to your Thanksgiving meal through a virtual video call and let them know that you’ll take care of their meal too. Work them to order some of their favorite holiday foods through a local restaurant. Many area businesses are providing full Thanksgiving menus this year, and most of them offer curbside pick-up and delivery services.
- Schedule video calls with old friends and family members. Technology isn’t always our friend but having the ability to connect over video calls can be such an encouragement to seniors who are living alone and isolated, particularly at this time of year. Help them get set up to use the technology and then make a date with some special friends or family members to reconnect.
- Offer to run errands for them. This can be as easy as calling them while you’re on the way to the grocery store and simply saying, “I’m heading to do some grocery shopping. What can I pick up for you today?” Or maybe you’re running into the drugstore and give them a ring to see if their prescription is ready to be picked up. Small acts of thoughtfulness can go a long way!
- Have a routine to help you stay connected. Maybe you plan to call every Sunday, or you become pen pals and write weekly. Whatever makes sense for you and your loved one, try to make a plan and stick to it as much as possible. Younger adults are in the midst of a very full season in life with work, family and personal commitments. But as you age and your responsibilities shift, life slows down. It’s helpful to have moments on the calendar each week to look forward to, particularly when it involves a social connection with friends and family.
- Purchase a few little gifts for a “porch drop party” and surprise them. Browse the discount bin at Target or swing by The Dollar Tree on your way home from work this week. Pick up a few little goodies that will make your loved one smile – and surprise them with a “porch drop party” gift bag that they can enjoy at their leisure.
These are just a few of the things my team and I came up with when we sat down to think of ways we could encourage our special seniors this holiday. I’m sure you can come up with a few more! Let’s end this difficult year by bringing joy and gladness into someone else’s life.
What better way to wrap up 2020?
Tim Murray is the President and CEO of Aware Senior Care, an award-winning home health care agency in Cary, North Carolina serving seniors and those who are disabled or chronically ill. They are a veteran-owned business serving the Triangle, and they believe in taking a holistic approach with every client by considering the whole person, not just the services they can provide.