Traditions create memories for our children and instill life values. Traditions help give people a sense of belonging and identity. Traditions offer a sense of security, especially for older loved ones.
Seniors have traditions that date back to their youth, many of which were passed down through the generations. When celebrating with seniors, make sure you ask what the holidays meant to them growing up and try to incorporate some of their traditions. Older family members may be more closely tied to holiday customs than younger family members. Make sure to really listen when they share their memories; then make it possible to include their special traditions in your holiday celebrations.
Planning activities with seniors helps to preserve memories and gives everyone involved a sense of connection and belonging. It is a great way to bridge the gap between senior loved ones and younger family members.
Some traditions never change, such as baking and cooking traditional dishes. Ask your senior loved one to share their favorite holiday recipes. I have a hunch you probably already have the recipes and have been making them for years. If that is the case, print the recipes up and distribute them to younger family members. Ask your senior loved one to share a story specific to the recipe and include it. One day, the younger family members will be the ones carrying on the baking and cooking traditions.
A tradition my family particularly enjoyed was watching the classic holiday movies. Set aside a specific time to watch your senior loved one’s favorites. Ask them to share any memories they may have of watching the show. Did they watch it with grandparents? Parents? What made it special?
Often your senior loved one will have ornaments that have been passed down through the family. If they are no longer able to decorate, ask if they want to include any of their ornaments on your tree. Another option, is asking if they would a like a small, artificial, tabletop tree to hang a few of their favorites.
Viewing Christmas lights around the neighborhood was always a festive way to spend time together as a family. Ask your senior loved one if this is something he or she would like to do. If your family has young kids, bring them along. What a great way for generations to spend time together.
Sometimes aging restricts our senior loved ones from participating in the holidays. For some, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to do so. If your senior loved one suffers from dementia or has mobility challenges, it may not be in their best interest to go to your home for a holiday celebration. Confusion may be increased in unfamiliar surroundings and noisy environments. If this is the case, consider bringing the holiday to them. This could be as large as having the family dinner at their place, or just as simple as visiting for a few hours, sharing memories. Keep in mind how quickly older adults can tire. It may be a good idea to check with your senior loved one’s caregiver to determine how much activity is appropriate.
Many senior living facilities have holiday celebrations. Most of the time, families are encouraged to attend. Since the facility is now home to your loved one, make it a point to attend the celebrations and create new traditions.
During this time of celebration, be sure to encourage conversation. You may find your loved one wants to talk about things other than the holidays such as unmet needs, stress, health, or safety issues. If needed, we can help with concerns you and your loved one may have. You can reach the Information & Resource Specialists by calling 269-441-0930. Call us! We’re here to help.