Remember seniors who might be alone in your holiday plans

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Consider giving senior acquaintances the gift of companionship this holiday season.

The holidays are upon us. With the chaos of running back and forth getting ready to celebrate, it is important for us to remember our friends, neighbors and relatives, who might be alone or feel alone.

Isolation is a crucial concern for older adults, and the holidays tend to intensify the impact. A 2021 study showed 30% of adults were at an elevated level of loneliness.

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Ron Smith Maricopa
Ron Smith

Be alert to factors that might foster isolation. Does the senior have family in the area? Have their children moved away? Has a spouse passed away during the past year or two? Do they have transportation options? Do they have factors that might inhibit them from social interaction, such as their appearance or health?

Be creative in methods of outreach. Look for ways of inclusion. Find a way to involve the senior in a family activity or a party through a video chat. Make a call or visit if possible. Send cards, pictures or gifts. Try to engage them in family nostalgia to ignite important memories. Share light-hearted stories, humor and/or movies. Share family activities or find neighbors to visit or bring gifts/food.

Remind your loved ones of their importance, allow them to contribute to your celebrations and show appreciation for all their contributions. It is easy to unintentionally push them aside, thus diminishing their importance and value to the family. Actively engage older family members in your activities, reassuring them they are still valuable contributors. Find time to spend with your loved ones; it will be a special gift for all involved.

Social isolation is a multifaceted problem. Not only does isolation affect one’s health, but it may help preclude timely medical interventions. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to isolation by conditioning us to avoid others to protect our own health. In the process, we lost many of the natural social interactions that have been so important in our development as a society.

As we emerge from COVID-induced isolation, think about those who would benefit from a little sharing of our time, compassion or simple companionship, and reach out to them. We need to reprogram our habits and actions to share time again with those who may feel lonely and need to feel valued by others.

Fortunately, human needs transcend politics or physical boundaries when we allow ourselves to be open to them. Let’s use the spirit of the holidays to help those suffering from isolation and enrich all our lives.

Ron Smith is a living-in-place advocate, a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist and a Certified Living in Place Professional.

 

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