As one ages, life losses are related to health as well as to losses of job/sense of purpose; social contacts; and previous relationships and traditions. While some seniors are blessed with excellent health, others of similar age may not experience the same degree of health, thus reducing their normal pool of friends and supports. During their lives, they have possibly experienced the loss of spouses, friends, and family members.Even if family members remain alive, the older adult may experience reduced contact with them due to geography or the general busyness of life.The holidays often trigger memories of treasured times full of people, purpose and relationships, increasing the awareness of such losses.All of these factors place older adults at risk for what has been known as the holiday blues.
How can we as a community that is dedicated to enriching the lives of those we serve respond to create a time of connection and celebration?
PROGRAMMING TO COMBAT THE HOLIDAY BLUES
Memories of holidays and past celebrations often permeate our thoughts during the holidays.A community can encourage the recall of pleasant memories by creating an atmosphere reminiscent of days gone by.Choose traditional decorations used during the time when our residents reared their families.Even though purple, pink and turquoise trees may be current and attractive to younger clientele, incorporate the traditional colors and decorations with which our residents are familiar.Decorate with the more classic colors of red, green, burgundy, gold, silver, and white.You may even want to create a nostalgic center with flocked trees or aluminum trees spotlighted with a rotating colors spotlight, reminding residents of holidays in their previous homes.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT
Most importantly, involve the residents in events and event planning.Have the residents suggest events, parties, and celebrations that are meaningful to their generation – for instance, decorating. Decorating the home was part of the holiday tradition; encourage residents to be a part of decorating within the community.Consider sponsoring a holiday tour of homes for residents who pride themselves in their personally decorated homes. This event can also be used as a marketing event, as well.For faith-related communities, involve residents in crafting Chrismons for the tree. Creation of these ornaments made from religious symbols can be the focus of a craft class many months preceding the holidays, and completion of the ornaments can be done within the class, or at home for those who are less mobile. The beautiful, completed Chrismon tree offers a sense of accomplishment and sense of purpose for those who were involved in its creation.
CELEBRATE THROUGH MUSIC
Be sure to stream the music of their generation.Rather than songs by contemporary artists such as Michael Bublé, be sure to play Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald. For younger residents, include singers such as Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, and Pat Boone. Many radio channels highlight classical Christmas music during this time.
Packed stores are typical during the Christmas season and residents may have difficulty navigating retail areas clogged with traffic; however, they too desire to be a part of gift giving. A senior living community might sponsor a Christmas Marketplace on site where different vendors display wares for purchase. Be certain to include vendors who provide gifts appropriate for all ages, from scarves for adult children to toys for grandchildren and great grandchildren. Allow residents to “register” for gifts from their friends and family. Consider inviting the public to at least one of the “vendors on campus” days. The invitation to the public is an interesting marketing event and an opportunity for inter-generational mingling.
With the chasm of experience between older adults and their younger counterparts, Life Enrichment can offer informational classes about items favored by specific age groups. This can be extremely beneficial when residents wish to purchase a technology gift with which they are unfamiliar.
ENABLE GIFTING TO OTHERS
Lastly, a community or organization can promote gifting to others, creating an opportunity for philanthropy among its resident population. Consider encouraging woodworkers to build simple wooden pull toys for hospitalized children; knitters can make shawls and lap blankets for hospitalized men and women; residents can make special tray favors or desserts for Meals on Wheels deliveries. Giving to others gives one a purpose and creates a greater sense of well-being.
Senior living providers strive each day to improve the lives of residents, so we must be sensitive to the holiday blues and take intentional steps to address and lighten the season for our residents.
Read our prior blog entries on this subject:
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About the Author
Patty Scotten is a consultant with Retirement DYNAMICS® and serves as their marketing manager. Patty has over twenty five years’ experience in the senior living industry and has led several communities in preselling expansions or increasing occupancy levels. She graduated from Elon University and holds a Masters Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patty is licensed as both an assisted living and nursing home administrator.