The words “holiday” and “stress” aren’t necessarily the first pairing we think of at this time of year, but rest assured, they’re lumped together in a big way. Think about everything you’re already asking yourself: how will I get all the gift shopping done? Who’s coming to dinner? When am I going to put decorations up? For seniors, this time of year can be stressful for different reasons.
“Aging adults often have stress that can keep them from having a joyful holiday season,” says Kristine Tilton, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. “This time of year can bring up painful memories of loss, grief and anxiety, causing them to pull away during this season of togetherness.”
If you’re a senior or have a senior loved one, here are some major stressors to watch for during this season:
1. Mourning the loss of loved ones
No matter how long ago a loved one has passed away, the grief can feel fresh again during the holiday season. Memories of holidays past can flood us this time of year, and if a senior has lost their spouse, that sadness becomes amplified.
Many seniors live away from their family, and may no longer have as many friends living around them. Because of mobility or transportation issues, seniors can be stuck alone at home, which causes loneliness, sadness and depression.
3. Food issues
This is a time for sweets, savories and treats, which can be an issue for older adults who have restrictive diets, swallowing issues, chewing issues or any other dietary challenges. This can cause anxiety when attending a holiday event, and may cause the senior to not want to attend.
4. Mobility difficulties
Getting around is more difficult as we age, and with the ice, snow and darkness that comes in winter, many seniors feel trepidation about leaving their home – even if they’re going somewhere familiar. It also means they may not be able to do as much as they once did, such as hosting the big family gathering.
5. End-of-life ponderings
As we age, the sad realization is that every holiday we spend together could be the last one. That can cast a bitter pall on what is supposed to be a happy time, causing seniors worry, stress and sadness even in the middle of a celebration.
How to Plan a Stress-Free Holiday for Seniors
No one should have to be stressed at the holidays. Here are some tips for helping you or a loved one plan for a season that’s as stress-free as possible.
- Hold easy events for family and friends. Being included in activities and events is a great way to avoid stress. This can be anything from a coffee and cookies brunch with close friends to caroling throughout the neighborhood to decorating the home to whatever else you’d like to do. Anything that gets loved ones together to laugh, listen and be together!
- Have actual conversations. Sometimes we can talk with each other without really saying anything or really listening. Seniors may want to talk about their feelings and express the sadness (or other emotions) they’re feeling. The best thing loved ones can do is really listen and encourage them to share their thoughts.
- Plan downtime. There’s no prize for doing the most or getting everything done the quickest, and those of us who aren’t spring chickens anymore need some time to recuperate between all the fun. Try not to schedule too much, too soon, and make sure there’s plenty of time to recharge batteries in between events.
- Continue favorite traditions. Traditions are what bind us together and what we remember from holiday season to holiday season. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything that you once did (like make a fruitcake that no one eats but you always bake because it’s tradition), but focus on several things that are the most important. That could be decorating the tree together, or attending midnight mass or baking cookies one afternoon.
- Alter traditions that don’t work as well anymore. Sometimes traditions just need a little updating in order to make them work for everyone. For example, if you’ve always had a holiday dinner at seven p.m. and then stayed up all night celebrating, that may not be an option if a senior can’t drive in the dark or is having issues with their health. Why not have a holiday lunch or brunch instead?
- Know the signs of depression. Weight loss, unexplained sadness, anger and changes in sleeping patterns are all signs of depression. By recognizing the signs, you can take steps to correct the issue, whether through medication or action.
- Find ways to spend quality time together, even with faraway loved ones. One of the biggest stressors is not having all the family together at the holiday season. Thanks to technology, though, there are many ways for everyone to be present. Emails, notes and phone calls throughout the season can be something cheery to look forward to. Video calls are a fun way to interact (and maybe even watch loved ones open your gift you’ve sent). Don’t forget how much a short drop-in can mean to someone who lives across town – all these little things add up to one big way to show someone we love them.
- Continue connecting after the holidays are over. Once the celebrations are over and everyone’s gone back to normal life, seniors can start to feel sad and lonely again because it’s “back to normal.” Since we’re approaching the new year, a good resolution (for a senior or the loved one of a senior) is to try and connect more in the coming year. It can be anything from a weekly phone call, or regularly written notes or even helping coordinate visits.
For more information about holiday planning for seniors, or to learn more about how we provide distinctive and luxurious independent and assisted living options for seniors in Wellesley, MA, please contact us at 781.235.1614.
Beautiful Riverfront Community
Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities.
Celebrating Dynamic Living
Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.
Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors.
Confidence of Care
The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone.
For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.235.1614.