As the years pass, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s normal to get caught up with jobs and responsibilities. You may lose track of the last time you visited — or even the last time you talked with — an elderly loved one.
Fortunately, the holidays mark a great time to spend with them. Whether it’s to have quality time with your senior family member or pay tribute to a great generation through volunteer work; you have the opportunity to make a senior happy this holiday season.
The world moves at a fast pace and it’s easy for people to soon forget what’s truly important. Seniors are sometimes forgotten, but are still very much alive.
The creative group, Voyager, recently put together a moving video documenting a senior’s life.
Mary, a 98-year-old and the focal point of the documentary, reminds us how important it is to spend time with aging loved ones as they crave companionship and need community support. Her story provides a glimpse into humanity and reminds us why we cannot forget about our seniors.
Whether you have a senior friend, grandparent or parent, here are three reasons you should visit a senior this holiday season:
When seniors are asked to look back on their lives, they often reminisce about stories that involve family and friends — their connections and time spent laughing and living. The emotions involved in making these connections and memories are what make us human.
Regardless of age, everyone needs to make these connections to stay healthy. It’s these moments that give us a reason to live. Seniors are no different than they were when they were younger; they’ve just aged. Whether it’s Dad or Mom, Grandma or Grandpa, or someone you’ve never met, seniors need companionship and to make emotional connections so they don’t become depressed, isolated or lonely.
In fact, senior isolation brings with it a number of mental and physical health risks. Both isolation and loneliness have been associated with the following:
The holidays, of course, are prime time for enhancing quality of life through conversation and visits to help keep senior isolation in check.
Humans are wired to interact and socialize, and they especially need these interactions as they age and sometimes lose social circles and spouses. Each generation can learn from one another, making holiday visits between family members — or even kind strangers — even more powerful. An important part of quality of life is all about emotional connections, human interaction and having a reason to live.
There’s an undeniable strength in family stories. In fact, putting together an oral family history can not only bring family members together and strengthen the ties between generations, but they can also educate about family genetics, personalities and more. Family history translates into stronger family bonds and life successes. In fact, studies have shown that children who have more knowledge of their family history also tend to show greater emotional resilience, facing stress more effectively as they have a stronger sense of where they come from and who they are.
A survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by A Place for Mom revealed the following topics were what U.S. adults wanted to know about their family members, specifically their:
Almost like a puzzle, heritage is many pieces that form a masterpiece to comprise an individual and their journey. Taking the time to visit aging loved ones during the holidays to not only reconnect but also gather pieces of their heritage puzzle, can provide important info to pass on for posterity. Information about families is lost in three generations if not written down. Learning amazing stories that are full of challenges and trials, whether it’s your heritage or stories from someone else’s, is not only interesting, but also fun.
Taking the time to connect and learn from elders gives them not only something to hold on to for themselves, but also provides examples of ancestors and genealogy. Going even further, and getting an oral history during your holiday visit will help you gather a voice and personal memories of individuals and communities to preserve human history, in addition to personal and family memories.
We feel better when we give, and often times we feel this way after spending moments giving to those in need and volunteering for seniors. A little goes a long way in a nursing home or senior living community. According to Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, a consultant and speaker with nearly 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care:
“If you can push a wheelchair safely from one location to another, or sew on a button, you can be a hero.”
The holidays mark an excellent opportunity for volunteering in a senior living community as there are often activities and opportunities to help with festive celebrations and gatherings. People need people during the holiday season; whether they’re 25 or 95. But especially if they’re an aging senior who doesn’t have anyone else with whom they can celebrate.
Watch Mary’s powerful story to discover why you should visit a senior this holiday season. Remember: Call your senior loved ones and be your authentic self. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll be glad you took the time to reconnect.
Are you planning to visit a senior this holiday season? How have you spent time with senior loved ones over past holidays? Share your stories with us in the comments below.