Celebrating from a Distance: How to Keep Older Loved Ones Safe this Holiday Season

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

The holidays are a joyous time, and there is no reason that should change because of this year’s challenges. While traditionally this is a time for families to come together in person, we need to consider the health of older loved ones and find new ways to safely celebrate and keep traditions alive.

According to AARP, about 64% of family caregivers expect to change their typical holiday traditions, and 77% say the pandemic will affect their plans at least to some extent. While many seniors look forward to this time of year, cooking big meals, decorating their home and participating in traditions like watching holiday movies or caroling with family, now is the time to protect them, even if that means adjusting in-person traditions.

“As seniors age, their time spent with family, especially through holiday activities such as cooking dinner and decorating the tree, becomes even more precious,” said Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead. “That is, especially as seniors may be feeling more isolated and lonely than ever due to COVID-19, it will be important to not simply cancel these events, but simultaneously identify new ways to safely celebrate with the older adults in our lives this year.”

While the pandemic will certainly impact how the holidays are observed this year, that does not mean families should abandon traditions. There are ways to celebrate, bring cheer and include older family members in a way that is memorable and enjoyable while keeping everyone safe. Hogan offers the following tips on ways to safely spend the holidays with seniors this year:

1. Host a virtual family celebration. To get into the holiday spirit, host a tree-decorating celebration together via video conference, have everyone decorate their tree at the same time and share photos of the final product. On the big day, enjoy a meal together over video, or keep traditions alive by video chatting with your senior loved ones when opening gifts.

2. Deliver a meal. Many families are unable to gather this year. Consider cooking a meal and delivering it to the doorstep of older loved ones, or even do a contactless exchange of divided meal items along with holiday greetings from afar.

3. Start a movie marathon. Propose a holiday movie marathon and encourage loved ones to watch at the same time from the comfort of their own home. You can connect over video conference or text to enjoy your favorite scenes together as they happen, or call afterwards to discuss your favorite part.

4. Drive-by parades. If you’re feeling virtual fatigue, opt for a safe, socially-distanced celebration option to brighten a loved one’s holiday. Create festive posters or deck your car out like a parade float and drive by their home to bring the holidays to them. You’ll be able to see their smiling faces while still maintaining a safe distance.

5. Send care packages. Send a holiday care package with nods to your favorite holiday traditions. If you’re used to decking the halls together, include a few of your favorite ornaments or swap fireplace stockings. You can also send family favorite holiday films and freshly baked cookies to make them feel included in the usual festivities.

Just because older loved ones may be celebrating separately this holiday season does not mean they have to celebrate alone. By connecting in new festive and creative ways, you can ensure that the spirit of the season is not lost.

For more tips and ideas on safely celebrating the holidays and keeping your loved one healthy and safe, visit http://www.caregiverstress.com/senior-activities/holidays/.