Senior Lifestyles: Tis the season to be jolly — but it’s not always easy

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 25, 2018

For most of us, this is the time of year when families travel to see each other, and our now grown children bring their kids to visit grandma and grandpa. 

There are the memories to be shared of past Christmas holidays, and a chance to slow down and catch up, and, of course, at almost any age, the joy of giving and receiving presents. What an idyllic picture!

But the truth is a bit harsher and more realistic for too many of our aging seniors, who are alone or in a facility surrounded by acquaintances rather than lifelong friends and family members. For some, the holidays bring feelings of isolation rather than joy, and, for others, it can be a time of depression.

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Think about that. Is that the way it should be or can be? No, of course not.

We all know of someone, a friend or acquaintance, who can use some cheering up this time of year. It takes so little time, and the only effort required is a smile, a warm hello and the sharing of a few minutes of time to give a gift that in many instances is far more meaningful than another pair of socks.

I believe that the least expensive yet most meaningful gift you can give to anyone is your time.  During these holidays, why not make it a point to visit the people you may know, as well as someone that you know who lives alone? 

If you really want to make a difference, visit a nursing home or an assisted living facility, even if you don’t know anyone. Simply call ahead and let the facility administrator know that you’d like to visit and spread some holiday cheer with some of the residents, many of whom may not receive many visitors throughout the year.

While it’s not necessary to bring anything more than yourself wearing a smile on your face, if you can, pick up a box of holiday cookies and share them with everyone you see in the facility, along with a sincere “Merry Christmas.” 

Be prepared to hold some hands and receive some hugs. I promise you, this will be an experience that will make you feel good about having reached out to share the spirit of the season.

For those fortunate enough to have local family and friends or visitors, make the time you share with them special.

For the limited time you’re with them, forget about anything that separated you and celebrate the love and joy of just being together.

Forget any old grudges, and promise not to talk politics. Just relax and find common ground sharing memories that make you laugh. It’s a great way to reestablish old relationships and strengthen the ties of friendship and family.

I practiced what I “preach,” as I visited some seniors in a nearby nursing home.

After that, I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, to spend most of the month of December visiting my son, his wife and my six grandchildren — four girls and two boys — ages 6 to 16. 

Believe me, while the gifts of the season are welcome and get everyone excited, what they all remember and hold onto long after the toys are broken and the other presents forgotten will be the fun we had and the love we shared. Perhaps the greatest gift I leave with them will be the memories of the time they spent with their “Poppy,” and that’s a feeling that no words can adequately describe.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy Happy New Year. Have a joyous time sharing your love with everyone you know.

And this year, take a few minutes to extend that love to some people you don’t know personally, but who may need what you give them more than you’ll ever fully understand.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease.” He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or at