It’s the holiday season, which means you might be spending more time than usual with your senior loved one. Even if you aren’t gathering around the table with your older loved one, you can still find ways to connect with them and keep them safe during this busy — and sometimes stressful — season.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite ways to support older adults in senior living during the holidays and well into the new year. You can use these ideas whether you live a few blocks away from your loved one or you are thousands of miles apart.

Encourage Safe Shopping

It’s the season when everyone is rushing to the mall or hopping online to wrap up their holiday shopping. This year, encourage your loved one to practice safe shopping habits, such as setting a budget before they start spending, scheduling reliable transportation if they feel unsafe driving to their favorite store, and making sure they have a great pair of walking shoes to put on before they head to the mall.

Before your loved one opens their laptop to start online shopping, ensure they are aware of good digital safety practices. Tell them to never open an email from someone they do not know, to never give their credit card information over an email or chat box function, and to never use a shared computer to input financial information. While you’re at it, give them a quick heads-up on senior-targeting scams that are happening in their area as well.

Try Something New

The pursuit of lifelong learning has been linked to lowering the risk of cognitive decline or slowing the dementia process. This year, try learning something new with your loved one and the whole family. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Learn a new language together using an app like Duolingo.

  • Learn about holiday traditions in other countries, and share one together each time you call your loved one.

  • Get the grandkids involved by asking them to teach a math skill during your annual cookie decorating party.

  • Start researching your family history by heading to the library or using online resources.

  • Learn new songs you can sing during your holiday celebrations.

Get Crafty

Creativity lives in all of us, though sometimes it can feel difficult to pick up a paintbrush or charcoal stick if you haven’t done it before. Make a family commitment to develop your creativity by pledging to try one new holiday craft together each week of December. If you live close, make a plan to swing by with the craft supplies one day after work. If possible, bring dinner too so you can enjoy a fun and nourishing evening together.

If you live far away, you can put together weekly kits with all the supplies and send them through the mail. Then video call one another each week to work on your craft together.

Try making holiday wreaths for the front door, a snowglobe, holiday cards, or anything else that looks interesting to you!

Encourage Connections

The holidays in senior living can sometimes feel lonely, which makes connecting with family, neighbors, and peers even more important during this season. You can encourage your loved one to get out and about with friends, but if they seem hesitant, here are a few ideas you can gently suggest:

  • Invite a neighbor over for coffee and donuts.

  • Make it a point to say hello to the mail delivery person each day this month.

  • Ask friends over for hot cocoa and a holiday movie.

  • Host a cookie decorating party using premade sugar cookies, tubs of frosting, and sprinkles.

  • Send a letter to any of the grandkids in college.

  • Ask a family member over to make a favorite recipe.

Watch for Red Flags

Since you might be visiting your loved one more this month than at other times of the year, it’s the perfect season to keep your eyes peeled for any signs that they might not be thriving at home on their own. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you see them in person or over a video call:

  • Do they say they are lonely, sad, or depressed?

  • Have they lost or gained weight recently?

  • Are they walking confidently, or do they show signs of shuffling or stumbling?

  • Do they have any bruises or scrapes?

  • Are they showing any signs of cognitive decline?

  • Are they able to keep up with the conversation around the table?

These questions can help you begin a conversation with your loved one, your family, and their physician as you consider the best next steps.

The holiday season is full of emotions, and you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed about what comes next for your senior loved one. Get the support and resources you need by hearing from senior living residents, family members, and experts in our Senior Living LIVE! Home for the Holidays webinar.

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