The holidays can be a hard time for many people, especially seniors. Older adults are at an increased risk of loneliness due to factors like death of a spouse, children and families who have moved away, and lack of a support circle of friends. To make it worse, COVID has largely increased instances of social isolation as many seniors prefer to avoid large crowds, while cold weather keeps many seniors from enjoying their favorite outdoor activities.
Feelings of loneliness can also be compounded as the holidays emphasize family togetherness and increase pressure to be merry and bright. While many holiday programs focus on children, it’s important to remember that seniors deserve a happy holiday as well.
Many communities have recognized this plight and offer a “Be a Santa to Seniors” program, complete with senior wish lists and suggested donations to increase holiday cheer. These programs are designed to remind seniors they’re important and valued members of the communities while providing them with holiday gifts and needed essentials. The ease of online shopping – and the added perk of free shipping – make this one of the easiest ways to brighten a senior’s holiday season.
Home Instead Senior Care in Roanoke County, Virginia, has organized a “Be a Santa for Senior” program for the last 20 years. The program is expected to help between 1,600 and 1,700 people this year. Likewise, the United Way of Greater High Point, North Carolina, asks for community donations of food and hygiene items as well as small gifts such as adult coloring books, crosswords, and more to keep seniors entertained.
“This time of year can be especially hard for seniors who are unable to spend the holidays with families and loved ones,” said Latoya Bullock, vice president of community impact at the United Way. “Because of COVID-19, many were not able to visit with friends or family for over a year. Some are still confirmed to their homes with minimal outside contact with the world. This year, we would like to bring a little joy to our beloved seniors during the holiday season.”
Interested in getting involved? Visit beasantatoasenior.com to find a local program, make a donation, or shop online with Amazon. Since the program began in 2003, there have been 2 million gifts given, 750,000 senior holidays brightened, 65,000 volunteers dispatched and 250 offices that have spread joy. Commonly requested items include puzzles, batteries, playing cards, soap, deodorant, body wash, blankets and robes.
Seniors helping seniors
Perhaps your loved one is not in need and is fortunate to celebrate the holidays surrounded by families and friends. If so, encourage them to spread the spirit of the holidays to homebound friends, family and community members. They, too, could be a Santa to a local senior in need, write holiday notes to residents at local nursing homes, or deliver baked goods to homebound friends and neighbors.
Encourage them to use skills like knitting to make lap blankets for local seniors. Activities that give back to others and the community have been shown to boost self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.