What should be a joyous season for many can sometimes be a stressful season for many older adults. The holidays may be cheerful, but they can also be very emotional. Individuals in the senior population can experience feelings of loss and loneliness. Memories of past holidays—complete with family members who’ve passed away or ones in which they had more independence—can trigger unwanted feelings and holiday stress. It’s important to recognize that stress and try to help them cope with it.
Holidays can sometimes prompt grief in the senior population. It can remind them of happy memories, which causes them to miss their spouse, siblings, parents, or friends that have passed away. You may think the right thing to do is to avoid talking about loved ones that have passed away, but encouraging them to talk about who they’re missing and reminiscing about them can bring them a sense of peace.
Traveling can be a huge source of stress for the senior population. Whether it’s traveling to shop for holiday gifts, or traveling to celebrations, it may not be as easy as it once was. Maybe they have mobility issues, are maybe they can no longer drive. During the winter, they must also factor in the cold and risky driving conditions. Be as accommodating as possible with walking aids like a walker, cane, or wheelchair, and offer to drive them places. Take them shopping, to their grandkids’ Christmas plays, and to family events. Consider bringing the holiday celebration to their home if need be. If you’re taking them shopping, help them figure out a budget if they’re particularly stressed about it.
Some seniors may carry stress around the holidays because they feel like they are a burden to their family. Be sure to plan ahead and include your loved one in the holiday planning. Not knowing what will happen during the holiday season, feeling like they’re being excluded, or feeling like a burden can prompt stress and anxiety. Be sure to incorporate intergenerational activities throughout the season that everyone will enjoy.
Whatever the source of stress, check in on your senior loved one. Talk to them about their mood and feelings. Encourage them to participate in their favorite traditions to boost their mood. Cook their favorite recipes with them, play their favorite holiday music, and bring their grandkids to visit.