Holidays in Retirement Centers: A Season of Loneliness or Happiness?
Although the holiday season is the time of festivity, celebration and intimate moments with your friends and family, the elderly may feel lonelier and more depressed than usual around Christmas and New Year’s. While younger people spend the holiday season hosting and attending dinner parties, celebrating and socializing with their loved ones, for seniors this can be a particularly stressful and depressing time of year. Often living far away from their children and grandchildren, faced with the news of their friends passing away and experiencing health issues, the elderly may have pretty low expectations regarding Christmas.
However, although seniors may be faced with certain challenges, seeing retirement centers as the worlds’ most depressing places is rather stereotypical. In fact, retirees living in communities and retirement villages are significantly less likely to feel lonely around Christmas. Thus, if you want to make the elderly in your life happier and their holiday season merrier, here are several things to keep in mind.
Be Aware of the Winter Blues
With days getting darker, shorter, colder and snowier, many seniors can experience the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Combined with Christmas loneliness, the winter blues can cause seniors to feel extremely depressed. If you notice that your elderly parents are experiencing drastic mood swings, start to lose their interests and seem really sad, they may be suffering from SAD. Retirees who live alone or in retirement centers may spend less time outside, stop socializing with their friends and become more withdrawn.
It’s also important to stress the fact that some elderly people may be more susceptible to the winter blues than others depending on the country they live in. For example, since the holiday season in Australia is typically sunny with beautiful weather, Australian retirees may feel happier around Christmas than retirees in the snowy regions of the U.S.
Nonetheless, you should keep your eye on your elderly parents around this time of year to see whether they are exhibiting any possible signs of SAD. If you notice any of them, make sure to help your seniors get through this depressing period by spending more time with them, taking them out more often and making their home brighter and more comfortable.
Spend Time with Your Elders
It has been reported that 60 percent of seniors over 60 in the UK have no positive expectations for the holiday season. Feeling lonely and isolated, for many of them, Christmas is just another day. While some seniors may be surrounded with friends in their communities, others may spend the holidays completely alone. In the UK, 61 percent of the elderly report that spending time with their families and loved ones is the most important thing for them. Therefore, enabling the seniors in your life to spend Christmas surrounded with their family will significantly relieve their loneliness and depression, as well as enhance their holiday expectations and experience.
However, you shouldn’t see this as a duty towards your parents. They shouldn’t feel like a burden, especially during this time of year. By simply listening to them, hosting a lovely dinner for the entire family, going through your old photos and playing some Christmas games, you can truly enrich their lives.
Find Them an Appropriate Home
If your elderly parents want to spend their retirement in prosperity, you should help them find an appropriate housing option where they will be surrounded with friends and have different amenities. Not only will they live comfortably, they will also feel less isolated and lonely, especially during the holiday season. As one of the most popular solutions, independent living in retirement communities is a practical option that will provide your seniors enough privacy, yet still make them feel as members of their communities. In addition, these retirement villages offer numerous benefits, including medical assistance, social events, different facilities, etc. Furthermore, when researching different housing options, you should consider the standard of living in a specific country. For example, in Australia, a great number of retirees report living comfortably, with a satisfactory level of financial security. Such a stability in life can truly be reassuring for seniors who can spend their days enjoying different comforts and socialising with their friends. Therefore, the fact that retirees living in communities are less likely to feel depressed and lonely during holidays is not at all surprising.
Don’t Focus Only on Christmas
While the feelings of loneliness and depression may become more intense around the holiday season, this is actually a common problem for the elderly. A great number of people are worried that they will become isolated and alone once they retire. Some seniors are completely alone with no one but their TVs to keep them company. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance that you spend more time with your elderly parents, relatives or friends and help them have richer lives. In addition, you should also consider volunteering at a retirement center if you have enough free time. Spending even an hour listening to them can really help them deal with certain issues in their lives.
Remember that for some elderly people, the holiday season brings more sadness than happiness and you can help change that.
Lori Thomas has decades of experience as a caregiver. Her writing for SeniorAdvice.com is informed by years of research as well as hands-on family experience caring for her now late mother, who had chronic health issues for most of her life. Lori is an integral part of the SeniorAdvice.com management team, acting as Vice President of Marketing and Chief Editor.