When you’re planning for the festive season, remember that older parents and other aging loved ones often have different needs than our children or we do.
Because they’re such an important part of our sense of family and the holidays, we need to plan good holidays for elderly loved ones. Too often we take for granted that our older family members can be as fully involved as we’d like. The fact is elderly family members may be lacking the stamina we’d wish they had.
That’s why it’s so important to plan all holiday events to ensure aging loved ones can enjoy them fully and that we can have the pleasure of their company.
Here are five steps for you to consider and apply in order to assure elder enjoyment at your family events this holiday season.
1. Reduce ‘wait time’. You can spend a lot of family wait time while meals are being prepared or people are dressing, or getting to a religious ceremony early in order to have good seating. But these are actually tiring times for the elderly. Help them by planning the latest time you can bring them to the event. That way, they don’t have to spend tiring ‘wait time’ doing nothing.
2. Build in ‘down time’. Make sure there’s at least half an hour or hour of rest time between events so your elderly parents can relax and perhaps catch a catnap or at least just have some personal quiet time. Their batteries run down faster now, and some recharge time becomes important.
3. Make meals more manageable. The more courses and the longer time a full meal takes, the more agitated little kids become… and the more aggravated older people become. Elderly parents will find long, drawn out meals fatiguing, even if they pretend to be enjoying themselves. So plan meals to be shorter, or plan strategies to respectfully give them options during a drawn out dinner so they’ll have some rest time.
4. Smart wrap for gift giving. Opening gifts that are tightly taped and tied with lots of ribbons is often difficult for the elderly. With reduced dexterity and maybe some arthritis, they can be stymied by some of the packages we present. Make it easier—and eliminate the embarrassment of being unable to open a package—by either wrapping their gifts much more loosely, or better yet, by putting them into attractive gift bags, covered with colorful issue paper.
5. Slow down and speak up. The elderly tend to process less quickly and don’t hear as well as once ago. To help them get the most out of your holiday events, slow down how fast you talk or do things, and speak more slowly and louder. Be sure to watch their reactions and body language very carefully for clues about how well they’re staying with you in terms of what’s being done and said.
And it’s also important to consider that for an elderly person who has lost a loved one, this is an especially difficult time of year. The loss, and the memories that inevitably freely flow especially during religious festivities, combine to create a level of personal hurt and pain we often don’t understand or respect to the extent we could and should.
When we consciously plan to meet the oft-unexpressed needs of our elderly family members, we’re ensuring they’ll be active participants in our holiday events. And we’ll know that their engagement is satisfying to them and to every person in the family.