With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the cold weather is sure to follow. It’s a time for families to come together and share memories and rich foods, and to build family bonds that will last a lifetime. Snuggling up with your loved ones near a fireplace is a great way to start the season, but there are a number of inexpensive activities that are winter-safe and senior-friendly.
Activities Are Important
It is a busy time of year, but don’t forget to plan special outings for your aging family members. Planning weather-safe activities that include these family members is critical to building a healthy family and thwarting depression in a vulnerable demographic.
Just how significant is depression in the senior citizen demographic? Estimates vary, but somewhere around 6 million seniors over the age of 65 exhibit some signs of depression. That number spikes to nearly a third of all seniors for those in long-term care facilities. A sense of isolation from loved ones can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and turn what should be a celebratory time of year into a dark season.
Depression is not just due to a sense of isolation. The changes in seasons and reduced daylight hours can trigger seasonal affective disorder. With symptoms like isolating behavior, lethargy, and weight gain, seasonal affective disorder can make planning a fun day a challenge, but that doesn’t change how important it is to make an effort.
To keep spirits high and spot problems before they start, invite your elderly family members to join you in planning weather-safe winter activities. The activities do not need to break the bank and can be customized to accommodate the physical limitations of all family members. Keep the whole family together and plan a fun outing this season.
Don’t Avoid Physical Activity!
While many senior citizens suffer from limited mobility, many are ready to get out and explore the world. If you’ve got active seniors in the house, doing engaging activities like walking dogs, taking a swim aerobics class, or going for a walk on an easy trail, can be a great way to break them out of a routine and give everyone a chance to talk.
Take advantage of the temperate weather and outdoor events this season. Helping a grandchild go through a corn maze, picking berries that are in season in late November, or going out for an afternoon of fishing, are all things that are entirely within many seniors’ capabilities. Be sure to plan for mobility concerns or weather changes.
If your loved one isn’t a fan of the holiday season, plan a theme party and invite the whole family! Parties that happen near the holidays don’t need to celebrate those days. Pick a creative theme that gets everyone involved. If your senior is a big fan of the tropics, throw a Margaritaville lunch, a tiki dinner, or a Hawaiian party. If they loved the west as a child, throw a Wild West shindig or consider hosting a ‘60s theme party to remind them of their youth.
Host a Theme Party
If they’re new to the neighborhood or are in a senior care facility and are having a hard time fitting in, go out and invite friends and neighbors. These parties are great conversation starters and will help your loved one feel accepted into a community while at a low-pressure event.
The key to a successful party is including your family in the planning process. The preparation activities serve as another time to get everyone together and enjoy the moment. Whether it’s cleaning, baking, or shopping to prepare for the event, make sure to invite everyone.
Take Advantage of Technology
Physical distance can make the holidays especially challenging. Does a senior citizen you love stress out over holiday seasons because they haven’t seen a family member or friend in years? Do some research and find people who your senior would love to visit but can’t, due to medical, financial, or other reasons.
Arrange for a Skype session or Facetime call with the friend and surprise your loved one. It’s easy to forget that not everyone takes full advantage of the many improvements in communications technology that emerged over the past decade. These applications are inexpensive or free and can bring families closer than ever.
Plan a Resort Getaway
If your senior is a homebody who rarely gets out of the house, consider planning a resort getaway weekend. These can be incredibly affordable during the holiday season, which is the off time for many personal service providers.
Group discount websites like LivingSocial offer steep discounts on voucher purchases for spa days, special meals planned by well-regarded restaurants, and other typically expensive self-care services. You can also purchase tickets to plays, indoor sporting events, and other events that will be a fun change of pace and which can include the entire family.
Plan a Night In
Not feeling up for a night on the town? Play some holiday music in the background and set the dinner table for a formal meal. Transforming a familiar space, like a dining room, into an upscale and elegant dining space is something that can be accomplished by adding simple, inexpensive touches.
Swapping out the tablecloth, using the special occasion china, and lighting a few candles for moonlighting can help you set the stage for a memorable night. Have an after-dinner holiday drink ready to go. Warm apple cider served in brown sugar rimmed mugs, hot chocolate with graham crackers and marshmallows, or eggnog, are all rare treats that can help make the night special.
Visit the Park
If you live near a city with a major park, chances are the park will be hosting a holiday concert season. Many offer free concerts that can draw big crowds to hear symphonies, live theater productions, and classic holiday music. With a little planning, an outdoor picnic with live music can make for a great day.
A Final Word
Winter can be a tough time for senior citizens, particularly those who live alone or in long-term care facilities. As temperature drops and the snow begins to fall, doing the things they once loved becomes a challenge. Help them break out of their daily routine or isolation by planning a special day that supports their routine medical requirements and lets them forget about their daily life for a while.
Whatever activity you choose to do with your loved one, make sure they can fully participate in the event. Whether you’re going to have a surprise night on the town or want to involve them in the event planning stage, you can help make this winter a season to fondly remember, with just a bit of effort and care.