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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Five Ways to Connect with Seniors During the Holidays

This year, when in-person visits and holiday dinners may not be possible, it is more important than ever to keep in touch with senior loved ones in a safe, thoughtful way. Families should find meaningful ways to make sure older adults are physically and mentally healthy, and to ensure that they are feeling the joy of the holiday season. And connection isn’t just important during the big days on the calendar – it includes time throughout the season in between holiday celebrations.

Feelings of senior isolation and loneliness can lead to depression, especially during quarantine and stay-at-home orders for seniors. It doesn’t take much time or effort to brighten someone’s day with a smile and hello in any shape or form. And with so many seasonal activities on hold, many need to find new ways to stay connected.

From parents, grandparents, and elderly neighbors to friends and family in other cities and states, here are a few ways to connect with others when you can’t be together in person.

Phone calls

Don’t underestimate the joy that a daily or weekly phone call can bring to both seniors and those that care for them. Most seniors have a phone readily accessible. Schedule a call or reach out during a time you know they’ll be available. Spend time during the holidays to talk about past celebrations, family updates and everyone’s wellbeing. Get silly, sing holiday songs together, and remember to find reasons to laugh together.

Video calls

There are a number of apps and websites to facilitate a video call. Many seniors are familiar with this technology, but some are not. Have someone in their household help set up a video call for older adults that aren’t sure how to get started. And families can consider gifting a tablet or smart phone to a senior that doesn’t have access to a video system. Even for those that are familiar with the technology, make the first move and call them first. Spontaneous video calls may catch some off-guard, so be respectful of time and space. And find ways to make it special – decorate your background, send your senior loved ones small items to decorate theirs, use holiday frames, or use the time to sing or read stories together.

Recorded video messages

Another way to spread holiday cheer over video is with recorded video messages. Have family and friends record a short video and send it to a senior loved one. There are apps that make recording and editing video quick and easy, and being able to see loved ones at any time is a true gift for many seniors.

Letters and post cards

Nothing beats a surprise note in the mailbox. Take pen to paper with a handwritten message or type and print a longer letter to share a personal update, favorite memory, or story. As a special bonus, add a few printed pictures in the envelope. And remember to reach out to senior loved ones early and often during the holidays. Set up a pen pal exchange or send frequent notes with favorite holiday memories.

Visit a senior safely

While it is not recommended that seniors attend in-person gatherings outside of their household, there are many creative ways to show older adults love during the holidays. Leave a message on their sidewalk with chalk, stand outside with signs and banners, have a family drive-through holiday parade for a senior, leave a thoughtful gift on their doorstep or sing carols.