Submitted by Lutheran Hillside Village
Those of us who are lucky enough to have senior family members or friends also have some of the best opportunities for adding meaning to the holidays. Here are a few ways to celebrate 12 — or more — memorable days with these important people!
- Do Christmas shopping with a senior. This is more about listening than it is about shopping. Older adults’ childhood memories and values may lead them to buy different types of gifts than you would. Respect and celebrate their choices as you help them make purchases online. Make plans to be there when the packages arrive, so you can help with the wrapping. All of this will build anticipation as Christmas approaches.
- Make gifts for those in memory care, such as lap blankets or fidget aprons with tactile stimuli. Check early with caretakers to make sure the item you have in mind can be used by residents, then schedule a craft night with friends and family to make and wrap the gifts. Or, get other residents within a senior living community to share in this activity. This can foster a great sense of togetherness!
- Have a senior tell you their Christmas story. At first, an aging parent may be inclined to tell you stories you’ve heard before, but don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper. You may learn about their favorite coat or the hill where they used to go sledding. Afterward, type up the story they told you in their own voice. Go online and find pictures to illustrate their story, then turn it into a card or book. Present it to them at Christmas.
- Learn about an older adult’s childhood Christmas menu. Maybe there’s a special cookie or side dish they enjoyed as children. Try to replicate a menu item and bring it with you on your next visit. Don’t be surprised — or offended — if you don’t get it quite right!
- If there are children in your life, take them to a senior living community. While they themselves are the real gift, children should also be prepared to make a gift, such as snowflakes to hang in the windows. This will brighten the season for aging loved ones, even after their little visitors have left!
- Use the holidays to grow your social circle with seniors and their friends. Don’t be shy! Sharing your attention with a group of seniors can help them connect with one another after you leave. Bring a puzzle or craft to be shared during this social time. On your next visit, make sure to greet your newest friends.
- If your senior is able to travel, take them to a holiday show, such as The Nutcracker. This is just as special for older adults as it is for children!
- If you are musical, share your gifts. Music in general — and Christmas carols, in particular — are great memory triggers for seniors. Bring drums and tambourines to help them join in the merry-making!
- Make your senior a Christmas card that hearkens back to their childhood. Many images can be downloaded from the internet to remind older adults of memorable times.
- Read a Christmas story. Choose one that matches the attention span of your senior. Don’t assume The Night Before Christmas will be too young. The lyrical beat may comfort and delight them.
- Make no-bake cookies. They’re easy, they can be eaten while they’re being prepared, and they can give an older adult with a memory impairment a great sense of accomplishment.
- Tape record a senior’s special Christmas memory. Don’t underestimate the importance of your loved one’s voice. You will enjoy the keepsake of their Christmas memory for years to come.
Plan ahead for holiday visits with the aging adults in your life by making sure you have enough supplies on hand and enough time for follow-up visits. By setting aside meaningful time with your loved ones, the season will bring greater blessings for you.
Lutheran Hillside Village is a Life Plan Community in Peoria, offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and long-term care. As part of the Lutheran Senior Services family, Lutheran Hillside Village has a dedicated staff on hand to help with daily living and health monitoring. Call Bridgette at 309-689-9605 for more information and to set up a personal tour.