Local families don’t need a big budget to make the holidays special for their senior loved ones this year. That’s because the “gifts” that many area seniors want the most are companionship and assistance with holiday preparations and traditions — tasks that may have become difficult because of vision, hearing and mobility problems.
“The aging process, which can cause changes in vision, hearing and mobility, often sidelines a senior during the holidays, limiting their ability to enjoy so many of the traditions that are important to that generation,” said Todd Harrell, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving seniors in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.
“That’s why the most valued gift for many seniors is assistance to continue to shop for gifts, bake Christmas cookies and tour the holiday lights.”
The following are 10 gifts that could thrill senior loved ones — desires that probably won’t show up on any gift wish lists:
1. Shop (but not until you drop!) Conditions such as macular degeneration, which lead to poor eyesight and the inability to drive, can make shopping difficult for older adults. Why not make it a special event to look forward to by taking your older adult to a favorite store or make online shopping an experience he or she won’t forget? Tune into seniors’ limitations and don’t overdo.
2. Keep food traditions alive. Food can play such an important role in the holidays for seniors. If an older adult can no longer cook the traditional holiday meal, why not offer to carry on the tradition, asking the senior to help where he or she can?
3. Make a special delivery. Arthritis can make wrapping those holiday presents a challenge; so too can shipping gifts to loved ones afar. Why not schedule a gift-wrapping afternoon, complete with hot chocolate, cookies and plenty of family stories?
4. Deck the halls. Carting out those favorite holiday ornaments isn’t always possible for an older adult with a bad back or weak muscles. Neither is stringing the lights or hanging the ornaments. Make it a great multi-generational activity by sending over the grandkids or great-grandchildren.
5. Send holiday greetings. The handwritten Christmas card is one of the most popular traditions of this generation of seniors. Why not lend a hand and offer to spend an afternoon writing greetings? If that’s not possible, an online photo greeting card can be just as good (and save the cost of cards and stamps).
6. Sing along. Caroling is a fun activity for almost any age. Why not get a group of your senior loved one’s friends together to serenade other older adults in an assisted living facility or nursing home?
7. Celebrate the reason for the season. Faith and holiday programs bring much joy to the lives of older adults. Be flexible and change traditions if necessary. For instance, attend early Christmas Eve service, not midnight Mass.
8. Focus on others. Volunteering to assist others can help seniors focus on someone else’s needs other than their own. Get the entire family involved in gathering supplies for a homeless shelter or serving a holiday meal.
9. Stay connected. The holidays can be a sad time for those seniors separated from their families. Help an older adult connect with loved ones far away with the latest technology, such as Skype.
10. The gift of time. Sometimes all an older adult wants is companionship, whether it’s a few moments of the day or a driving tour to view holiday lights. If you are short of time, consider the assistance of a family friend or neighbor, or the help of a Home Instead CAREGiver.