As we all know, the Christmas period is all about spreading the good cheer, spending time with loved ones and friends and having a blast in all! However, this is not the case for some throughout Ireland this year, and the “Happiness” of Christmas can be a torture for the elderly. Christmas can remind the elderly about the loss of loved ones maybe a recently deceased husband or wife or even the loss of their own good health from previous Christmas periods. Christmas time is in fact so much of a problem that elderly people often have an increased risk of suffering from depression and suicide increases. Depression affects around 15-20% of people ages 65 and over in Ireland. It is understood that almost 80% of the Irish elderly live alone, and this is even more of a reason why we should look out for the elderly of our communities this Christmas. All it takes is a quick visit over the holidays just to check in on how they may be feeling, maybe invite them in for a meal or even offer to help with their big Christmas shop! Loneliness is a massive problem in Ireland and can affect both the physical and mental health of our elderly in dramatic ways.
Reach Out – If you have an elderly relative, neighbour or friend that lives alone make sure to check in on them and see if that are OK. Take them to visit family members, call in to help them light the fire. Reaching out to a senior with small gestures you will be surprised at just how much it could mean to them, “It’s the thought that counts”
Involve Them – It is important that our elders feel a part of the holidays. Elderly people love to feel as if they are useful and don’t want to feel like a burden to anyone over the holidays. Ask them to help with things such as meal preparations like the Christmas turkey, picking Christmas cards or helping to decorate the house. Be sure to aware of their limits in what they can and can’t do so you do not upset them.
Reminisce – It is very important that we take the time to listen to an older person that feels like they need to reminisce about days gone by especially within the Christmas period as this is where they would have made most of their happiest memories. It may be about deceased loved ones, childhood memories or even Christmas memories and traditions that have passed. At family or social gathering, be sure to encourage them to fill everybody in on their “In my day” stories.
Make New Memories – Reminiscing on old memories and and old traditions can be painful for older people. Create new memories and traditions and make them feel present this Christmas to take their mind off the past. It can be something as simple as making a dish that they would have normally made or bringing them to mass on Christmas Eve or taking them to see the towns Christmas lights.
All in all, Christmas can be a tough time for the elderly which was my main reason for writing this blog. I hope it helps you change an elderly persons Christmas this year! Have a great Christmas