Bridging The Generation Gap This Holiday Season
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
By Britney Menter
Most of us spend the holidays with family and friends, packing our schedules with parties, gift exchanges and other social to-do's. We think of it as a time of year that everyone is busy and surrounded by loved ones, but unfortunately, seniors are often left out of the festivities. Some, only included for the mandatory holiday dinners. While you may be thinking simply of the logistics of getting them back and forth, or what you've done in the past, it can leave them feeling forgotten or unwanted. This year, we have a few ideas on how to include your aging loved ones, and even those around you who may not have family nearby, in your holiday fun.
Make a date outside of the holiday itself. We know this might sounds like you're just adding one more thing to your to-do list, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Do you take your kids or grandkids to see zoo lights every year? Do you decorate cookies to deliver to the neighbors every year? Invite grandma or grandpa to join you on an already planned excursion. These small events can mean a lot.
Rethink your gift ideas. Does your uncle love to tell stories? This year skip the slippers and sweaters and opt for a more meaningful gift. A Storyworth subscription allows your loved one to write their own memoir over the course of a year through either email prompts or recorded phone calls and have it bound into a beautiful hard cover book that will be around for generations.
Offer transportation solutions. Is mom not able to drive any longer? Don't let that stop her from joining in on all of the fun. Sign up for Uber, Lyft or Go-Go-Grandparent for a ride sharing option and offer to pay during the month of December or for events you want them there for. Each of those services offers wheelchair and disability transportation, but if the needs are more specific, check out our list of accessibility options here, or limited mobility senior options here.
On the other side, make sure they have a way to leave if they need to. Your loved one may choose not to attend your holiday party for fear of interrupting if they get tired and need to go home early. Let them know their options, or help them plan, so they can decide in advance what they're comfortable with.
Reach out to a neighbor. We know you're running to the store more than usual this time of year. Why not offer to take an older neighbor with you or see if they need any help with their holiday shopping or wrapping. A small gesture like that doesn't require much extra on your part but can be extremely helpful to someone who otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity.
Consider sharing your calendar. The only thing stopping you from seeing your in-laws more over the holidays might just be that they don't want to keep asking what the plans are. If your month is packed with recitals, school plays and neighborhood events that you wouldn't mind them tagging along for, just share your calendar and tell them to join you wherever they can! Making plans more casual and open ended can take the pressure off of you to always be reaching out.
Plan for the worst. This one sounds daunting but we don't mean it that way. Just make sure if you offer to take someone with you from an assisted living facility or even from their home that they have all of their medications and equipment. This may be as simple as asking dad to grab his cane in case he gets tired, or as serious as checking the battery level on his oxygen. You don't want to undermine or question someone ability to care for themselves, but it's also easy to forget things when you're excited or out of your normal routine. If you want to be sure not to offend, you can call in advance and ask if there is anything you can pick up or need to know about in preparation.
FaceTime. Ahhh, technology. These days it couldn't be easier to connect with loved ones that are far away. Include your family members that can't be there by simply arranging times to have a FaceTime or Skype call. Call during bedtime and have them read the kids favorite Christmas story to them, or pass the phone around the table after dinner so everyone can say hi on video. It's always nice to see smiling faces - even when you can't be there in person.
How do you include family in your holiday plans? Do you have tips for including aging family members? Share with us in the comments!