In a year unlike any other, the holidays are sure to look different, especially for seniors. With a virus that most threatens those with underlying health conditions and people over the age of 65, and an increasingly digital world, older generations and their families are entering the holiday season with many questions and a great deal of added stress.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. While our community sees new highs of COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends those most at risk, including seniors, stay home whenever possible. But even before the pandemic, senior loneliness was a growing trend among seniors and research points to it being as dangerous to health as chronic conditions including heart disease and dementia.
Vulnerable and in need for social connection, many seniors are now weighing the risks of health against beloved holiday traditions. But according to the experts at Immanuel, you can help your senior loved ones thrive this holiday season.
Senior health experts at Immanuel, a Midwest leader in retirement living solutions, say reinvention is a key to winning the holiday. They urge seniors and their families to reinvent beloved traditions and find new ways to connect and find support.
Immanuel’s fourteen senior living communities across Nebraska and Iowa have already begun to safely connect seniors and their families with reinvented festivities this season. Life enrichment experts are already sharing virtual games and activities, social distanced and virtual events, and are helping seniors navigate technology to connect more frequently with their families. Immanuel experts say these ideas can be positive and reassuring tools for families wondering the best steps for their holiday traditions.
“We’re inviting families to connect now more than ever, but in safe, healthy ways,” said Jennifer Knecht, Immanuel vice president of marketing, communications and sales. “Reinventing beloved holiday traditions will help your senior loved ones feel connected this holiday and at the same time stay safe from the COVID-19 virus.”
Knecht suggests a variety of ways to safely connect with seniors, from Santa pen pals to window caroling, care packages, holiday book clubs, virtual dinners and more. She also urges families to be intentional about hosting events including limiting guest lists to 10 people or less and asking all guests ahead of time to wear masks.
Connection is key. Knecht urges families to reinvent how they reach and support senior loved ones this season.
Regular, even daily check-ins can be a starting point to support seniors but might be overwhelming for families with busy schedules. Reinvent the approach by creating a rotating calling schedule. Knecht suggests guiding the conversation to topics of support, open communication and weaving in positivity: Are you concerned about anything? Can I help you with something? What three things are you most grateful for today?
Be cautious with technology, Knecht says, which is often a barrier with older adults. “Technology is an amazing tool for connecting with loved ones. But for seniors, navigating digital devices can be overwhelming and excluding,” said Knecht. “Smart tablets make great holiday gifts. You can preload apps for online grocery shopping or video chats so your loved ones simply need to press a button to connect and receive support.”
Looking beyond the holidays, Knecht urges families to continue the activities reinvented over the season.
“What we’ve learned most over the last year is just how important our loved ones are. And there’s no better time to offer support,” said Knecht.
Immanuel’s fourteen retirement communities across Nebraska and Iowa offer 55+ active living, independent and assisted living, nursing and long-term care, affordable living and memory support to nearly 2,000 seniors. Immanuel employees have kept seniors safe this year through comprehensive infection control practices that balance health and wellbeing. For more guidelines on holding safe holiday events this season, visit Immanuel’s COVID-19 dedicated response page.