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A Guide to Preventing Holiday Loneliness in Seniors

While many of us love the festive feeling that comes this time of year, it’s important to remember that things may not all be merry and bright during the holidays. For older adults, particularly, the abundance of holiday happiness may actually have the opposite effect. 

“The holidays are all about spending time with the people we love and care about, and for seniors, that simply may not be possible,” says Kristine Tilton, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. “They may be separated from friends and family by distance, or may have lost them due to illness and aging. As they themselves age, they are less able to do the things that bring them joy during the holiday season. This can lead to sadness, isolation and depression.”

As an adult, your holiday season is probably a jam-packed, busy time. There’s so much to do, from sending holiday cards to arranging holiday meals, to dealing with holiday travel, buying gifts, end-of-year deadlines at work ... the list goes on and on. So it’s easy to forget about older adults in your life and how this time of year may be affecting them. 

Says Kristine, “It’s always important to stay in touch with your elders to let them know they’re not alone, but it’s more important than ever during the holiday season. The loneliness that comes at this time of year can be emotionally painful and physically harmful. Depression and sadness can decrease our immune system, increase the chance of cognitive diseases like dementia, stresses our heart and cardiovascular functioning and can affect our longevity overall.”

Tips for Preventing Loneliness This Holiday Season

Listen to them. 
Everyone needs to feel like someone hears them and that they care. During this time of year, your senior loved one may feel the need to talk about holidays of yore, or about the people they’ve lost or even their negative feelings about the holidays. Make a point to sit with them and actively listen when they share their thoughts, even if the conversation is negative. Being honest and empathetic can help your senior process their feelings, reveal what’s bothering them and help them work through issues. It’s also a chance for you to show them that they are important, that you care and that they are not alone. You may also discover things you and others can do to cheer them up or make their holidays a little happier.

Include them. 
Invite and include your senior loved one to celebrations, no matter how big or small. By reaching out and letting them know they are welcome, you’re telling them that they are an important part of your life and your holiday celebrations. Spending time with others, especially their loved ones, can help seniors feel less lonely and less isolated. Even the simple change of scenery can do wonders to boost a senior’s mood, so consider reaching out when you’re running errands or doing tasks. Spend an hour together addressing and stamping holiday cards. Go shopping for gifts and grab a bite to eat at a favorite location. Bake cookies together. Anything that makes it easy for them to say “yes.” Remember that it’s not all on you, though – encourage other family members, friends and neighbors to reach out, even if it’s just a phone call or a card in the mail. 

Help them deck the halls. 

Does your senior loved one live alone? While decorating the house for the holidays isn’t the meaning of the season, decor certainly does make everything seem more festive, happy and fun. As we get older, it’s harder to drag boxes out of the attic or stand on a ladder to put up lights. Offering to help an older adult make their living space ready for the holidays can help them feel loved and inject a dose of holiday joy into their everyday life. If your senior lives with you or another caregiver, the same principle applies. 

Throw a party specifically for them. 

Organizing a holiday gathering can be time-consuming and exhausting, and your loved one may not want to or be able to do one on their own. A great gift you can give them is a party thrown in their honor. Connect with your senior loved one’s friends and invite them to a small holiday party (thrown by you) at your loved one’s house or other easy-to-get-to location (such as a private dining room in their senior community, for example). It doesn’t have to be a big to-do – cookies and cocoa at teatime can be just as fun as a big evening celebration (and a lot less exhausting, too). If needed, recruit another family member or close friend to help you throw the party, but don’t forget to include your loved one in the preparations. You may be surprised at how much he or she wants to and can do to help organize everything. 

Know the danger signs.

It’s important to take steps to get your loved one help if you notice them experiencing signs of depression. Pay attention if your loved one is:

  • Constantly feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Losing interest in favorite hobbies and activities
  • Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Angry, anxious or sad

If you notice these symptoms, check with your loved one’s physician to see what steps can be taken to help him or her feel better. 

Tell them you love them. 

The best and most important thing you can do to make your senior loved one feel appreciated and cared for at the holiday season is, simply, to tell them how you feel. Call them up to say, “I love you.” Pop in to say hello if you’re in the neighborhood. Take the time, and you’ll find that the happiness you help create is priceless. 

Finally, remember that loneliness isn’t a problem for just seniors. Many caregivers also experience isolation and loneliness during the holidays. Take care of yourself – and if you have caregivers in your life, remember that being there for them is a great gift.

For more information about our distinctive independent lifestyle, 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.