The holidays are usually a joyous time for families, but many functions should be modified for aging relatives, says Kathy Segrist, a Ball State gerontologist.
As some people grow older, they may lose the physical or cognitive capacity to trim a tree, bake a cake or spend time outdoors singing carols. Others may find themselves spending their first holiday season away from home in an assisted living facility. Some may have recently lost a close friend or loved one.
“The holidays are a time when families come together to celebrate,” says Segrist, interim director of Ball State’s Fisher Institute for Wellness and Gerontology. “However, there comes a time when older adults may not be able to do all the things they once could. At this point, family members and friends can find ways to include older adults in these traditions or start new ones.”
Her tips for making the holidays enjoyable for older adults include:
• Invite seniors to the majority of events but tailor the level of their participation to their physical abilities.
• Keep lines of communication open by encouraging an older adult to use email, instant messaging and social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Skype. Computers make communication easier and cheaper. The main barrier is the reluctance of older adults to try something new.
• Consider the nutritional and physical needs of older adults when planning dinners and other activities.
• Ask adults for input when planning activities.
• Stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding health topics of concern to seniors.
• When a family member can no longer live in his or her own home, consider nursing homes that embrace the Eden Alternative. These long-term care facilities foster a family atmosphere with the inclusion of pets, plants and children.
Segrist also encourages families to include older relatives in events throughout the year.