Guest post by Maria Ramos
While generally a time of cheer and celebration, the holidays pose their own set of challenges for seniors and those living with disabilities. The holidays are a time for family and friends, and generally everybody wants to get together for meals and holiday festivities. As a person ages, though, they may lose the ability to participate in beloved traditions like decorating a Christmas tree. Just because things are changing, doesn’t mean new traditions and memories can’t be made! Celebrating the holidays can be difficult when you have a loved one with a disability but there are some creative solutions to celebrating with your elders safely.
A playlist of holiday music
Everybody has favorite Christmas tunes, and elders are no exception. They are sure to enjoy a CD compilation of their favorite carols or songs. While tracking down the desired music may take some time, nothing will beat the smile on your loved ones face when the music makes their day. Tracking down and compiling videos of beloved performances from family members can also please an aging music lover.
Decorations from the kids in your family
Unfortunately, a full-blown Christmas tree may no longer be a realistic option, especially if they’re in an assisted living community, they may simply not have room for a tree. On the other hand, they will have room for handmade crafts from the kids in the family. These can range from garlands made out of green or red construction paper or pictures made with macaroni to figurines made out of pinecones. Some of the most cherished “masterpieces” are simply those made with love, some might even consider making it a group activity when all gathered together.
Festive items around the house
There are many alternatives to a Christmas tree that can brighten a small place and make it feel festive for the holidays. Poinsettias and amaryllis are brightly-colored plants that can be placed on any table, and a wreath or jingle bells can be hung on a door. Nutcrackers and other figurines can also make a senior’s home look more holiday-ready. Better yet, if your loved one has always loved having a tree of their own, they might be happy with a table-top version. Table-top trees are usually about two feet tall and are small enough to be handled and packed away easily.
Make a family recipe
Many seniors have their own ideas on how to contribute to holiday celebrations, but a senior who still loves to cook or bake can probably be coaxed into making their favorite holiday dish or treat. It can be anything from frosting a cake to mince pie to sweet potato mousse. Of course, this is also a great way to get seniors involved even if they are the gourmet chef they once were - sharing simple tasks like decorating cookies, mixing, or taste testing are always good starting points.
Look through family albums
One entertainment many seniors can provide themselves is stories about the "good old days." Bringing a photo album full of pictures may jog their memory and inspire them to tell some new stories. The family can even play a game in which they try to guess what is happening in a given photo, and the senior can then tell them the real story behind the picture. Similarly, family members can finally hear the real story behind a given family heirloom.
There are many ways to include a senior, even one with disabilities in the holiday festivities. Families need to consider the senior's needs, situation and desires when planning a celebration, but most importantly keep their health and safety in mind. Medical monitoring systems for the home can help with an accidental fall and monitor an older person’s whereabouts, and home automation setups can ensure lights and appliances are turned off from afar. With your peace of mind in tact, nothing is better than being and celebrating together, and by keeping these activities in mind you’re sure to brighten the holidays for the entire family.
Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.