What to do to help elderly people who are lonely at Christmas

Elderly people might face additional challenges during the holiday season, one of them being loneliness

The elderly are amongst the worst affected at Christmas, with feelings of loneliness sometimes eclipsing the expected good cheer
The elderly are amongst the worst affected at Christmas, with feelings of loneliness sometimes eclipsing the expected good cheer

Elderly people’s specific needs have to be given their due attention throughout the whole year, but older persons might face additional challenges during the holiday season which should be considered by those who care for them.

While Christmas is an opportunity for most to spend more time with their friends and family, the situation can be different for certain people who end up feeling more isolated and unhappy during this period.

The elderly are amongst the worst affected by this, with feelings of loneliness sometimes eclipsing the expected good cheer.

Those who live long enough to reach a certain age often suffer the loss of some of their loved ones, who either pass away, or fall ill and are unable to participate in things which they previously used to do together.

A decrease in energy levels and mobility might act as barriers preventing the elderly from joining in on activities, leaving them feeling distant from others.

In Malta, like in much of the developed world, neighbourhoods – especially in the busier towns – are changing, with older people ending up living in streets void of the people they used to know.

While we are bombarded with festive songs, shows and adverts, some senior citizens around us might end up feeling forgotten, melancholic and sentimental about happier times.

Another factor which can make things worse for senior citizens is their increased susceptibility to falling ill during the winter months. What might be a relatively mild case of influenza for a younger person can turn into a stay in hospital for the elderly.

There are, however, things that can be done to ensure the elderly in our lives and communities have a better experience during the holidays.
It’s important to make extra effort to maintain connections with our older friends and relatives, from a regular phone call to check on how they are doing, to visiting them, having a good chat and exchanging stories.

Help them add decorations to their home, or their room in a residential care facility.

Remind them that they are important to you and show them you are thinking of them during these times.

This can go a long way towards making them still feel respected, valuable, and a part of the family and society.

See to it that their homes are suitably warm and prepared for the colder months, that they have taken the recommended seasonal vaccinations and that they are eating a balanced diet. Assist them in cooking, and bring them Christmas treats.

If they are religious, ask if there are any Church events that they would like and are able to attend, and offer to take them there.

Keep in mind that it can become overwhelming for older people to be in a room full of people during celebrations, so dedicate some quiet time to sit with them and listen to what they have to say.

Don’t leave them by themselves on special dates such as Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Invite them to your own place, or make sure to visit them at their home or the facility they live in.

Following these steps can help lift older people’s spirits and brighten things up for them, during this time of year when everyone is expected to enjoy themselves.

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