Helping senior loved ones enjoy the holidays

Al Brandenburg Maricopa
Al Brandenburg

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s an ideal time to start planning for the festivities. Enjoying the holiday cheer will help maintain a positive mindset, which, in turn, helps one stay healthier. Keeping one’s body, mind, and spirit in top shape is a priority for a happy life. The holidays are an emotional time that is usually associated with family, from the time we’re kids anticipating all the colorfully wrapped presents we’re going to get to our adult lives, making the magic happen for our own kids. For some seniors who have lost a spouse or close friend or may not live close to their families, however, the holidays can seem to point a magnifying glass at the sadness and isolation they are experiencing. If you feel a loved one is experiencing sadness or depression around this time of year, try some of these steps:

Focus on being a companion: What makes the holidays so special? It’s spending quality time with friends and loved ones. These are what make the memories we cherish so much. No matter what you do together, it can be special. No matter what age you are, spending time together enjoying a meal, exchanging a gift, or just having a few laughs is essential to keeping your social life active. Sometimes this takes a shift in your thinking to one of complete generosity. Seniors often feel isolated, depending on their circumstances, so simply spending time with a family member or good friends fills them with a lot of joy. In fact, tap into that inner curiosity you have deep inside you and ask questions about the stories they’re sharing with you. These connections help maintain a rich and rewarding mental health.

Be Santa’s helper: Everyone loves to have a clean, organized home that’s festively decorated for the holidays. As we age, however, it gets more and more difficult to do that kind of work, especially the outdoor tasks. So, think about volunteering a weekend to help with picking up around the house, moving things that could cause a tripping hazard, vacuuming, and other needs. Then help unpack the holiday decorations and start getting creative. You can also help with wrapping presents and addressing envelopes for greeting cards. Play or sing holiday music to set a festive mood. Maybe make mulled cider, eggnog or hot chocolate to serve to your loved one while decorating, cooking or reminiscing together. Small gestures can go a long way.

Be a celebrity chef: Find out ahead of time what their favorite holiday meal is and make a day out of preparing it and enjoying it with them. Go online and track down the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients. Then, invite them to help you cook so it can be a shared experience. Feel free to make enough that they have leftovers to enjoy later. One of the best things to seeing all the beauty of the holiday decorations is the aroma and tase of fresh-baked cookies. Making Christmas cookies keeps the mind alert. Use frosting like paint and make your cookies like an art project.

The most important thing to remember, whether you have an aging parent or grandparent, a family friend, or a longtime neighbor, is to make sure they know you’re thinking about them and that they are loved and appreciated.
To that end, have a safe and joyous holiday season.

Al Brandenburg is a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition.

Sources: AARP,,,

This story was first published in the December edition of InMaricopa magazine.