For a number of reasons, Christmas may not be the joyful holiday for older people it is made out to be in film and TV. Loneliness, mobility restrictions and disability may impact on an older persons’ ability to join in with on the Christmas celebrations. Here are a few ideas to spread a little joy this Christmas:
Ask if they need a lift somewhere
Around 60,000 New Zealanders over 65 don’t have their driver licence, so mobility can be a barrier to visiting friends or family and completing tasks like Christmas shopping. If you are already going to the shops, then taking a passenger does not cost you much. Often people will not ask if they need help as they do not want to appear as a burden, so be the one to offer!
Set up their Christmas tree
Decorating a Christmas tree is tricky and physically demanding but it can play a large part in creating the feel of Christmas. Check if it’s something that’s important to an older person near you and if they need a hand setting it up.
Take a look at the decorations they have – are they bespoke, unusual or handmade? Ask the story behind them as a way to get to know them better.
Discussing decorations can also be extremely useful for someone suffering from dementia or cognitive impairment. Christmas is, throughout life, a time generally associated with strong, positive memories. And those strong memories are often something that’s retained. So a family heirloom or something they may have made when they were a child, could take them back to that time and it will generally be a happy place to go.
Read aloud or write out Christmas cards
Giving and receiving Christmas cards can be an important ritual for older generations but it may be something they need support with if they have eye-sight problems or their hands have become less steady. If you are wanting to send a card or postcard to an older person this festive season, check out the Postcards of Kindness link to find facilities who would like to receive cards for their residents.
Offer a seat at your table
Food can be a great way to begin a conversation with someone as meals are often a shared experience. Invite an older neighbour to join you for Christmas lunch or dinner. If that’s not possible you can always prepare a plate and share a few of your family’s culinary traditions.
Do what you can this Christmas to make it special for everyone in your community.