This year the news is full of stories about the challenges with the supply chain. Container ships are lined up at ports to unload containers full of holiday presents, there’s a shortage of truckers to deliver the containers to stores, a shortage of staff at stores, the list goes on and on.  This is a good time to get creative on different ideas for the holidays so you’re not disappointed when there are shortages in the stores

  1. If your loved one hasn’t received his or her booster vaccination help get it scheduled. It could be hard for them to schedule the booster online, your help goes a long ways. Make a day of taking them to get their booster shot and then having lunch together or take them shopping for their holiday gift list.
  2. Shop local, visit your downtown stores. They need your support, especially now and they have a lot of inventory that you may not have thought about as an amazing gift. 
  3. Visit antique stores, there’s nothing better than bringing back memories of years in the past and hearing the stories from days long ago.
  4. Take a senior shopping. Make it a special day by taking your loved one to a favorite store or create an online shopping experience he or she won’t forget.
    • My mom and I had a very nice day looking online at various presents for her grandchildren. She chose something she could engrave with a special saying and her initials. What a treat that will be for the grandchildren to have a present so lovingly picked out and customized for them. They will treasure it for the rest of their lives and always remember the Nana who loved them unconditionally.
  5. Lend a hand. Carry on the holiday cooking traditions, asking the senior to help where he or she can. Or ask people to bring their favorite dish.
    • My son who is in college is cooking for a friendship meal. The dish he chose to cook is a favorite of my Dad’s. He called Papa for the recipe and enjoyed hearing the story about how that became his favorite dish. I love seeing the traditional favorite recipes passed down through the generations. 
  6. Wrap and send packages. Arthritis can make wrapping those holiday presents a challenge; so too can shipping gifts to loved ones afar. Why not schedule a gift-wrapping afternoon, complete with hot chocolate, cookies and plenty of family stories?
    • Including your loved one in the wrapping process keeps them involved in the season of giving. It’s easy to press “add to cart” and “order” online, wrapping makes the gift more personal.
  7. Deck the halls. Make decorating a multi-generational activity by sending over the grandkids or great-grandchildren
    • We all have stockings hand made by my mom. It’s tradition to leave some candy in them each year as “seeds” to ensure there’s more the next year. I’m not sure when that tradition started but it’s the first thing we all check when we unpack the Christmas decorations. The chocolate has melted over the year and is more white than brown but it’s always a treat to savor and brings back memories of last year’s Christmas celebration. We also enjoy looking at all the ornaments that have been passed down through generations and those made by children as school projects. Each ornament has a story and special meaning and by involving all generations in decorating the tree the stories are kept alive.
  8. Send holiday greetings. The handwritten Christmas card is one of the most popular traditions for seniors. Offer to spend an afternoon writing greeting cards for your loved one.
    • Who doesn’t love to get handwritten cards in the mail? Include more than a signature, it’s a good time of year to catch up on family news and activities. The Christmas Letter has a bad reputation, I love hearing what people have done through the year and what better time to share that news than Christmas?
  9. Plan a fun event. Caroling is a fun activity at any age. Why not get a group of your senior loved one’s friends together and serenade other older adults in an assisted living facility or nursing home?
    • If caroling isn’t your thing use old recipes your loved ones made annually and spend the day making cookies. Take plates of cookies to elderly neighbors, friends, church members or to the senior center or Meals on Wheels. Plan a cookie exchange using only recipes handed down by family through the years. Include copies of the recipe and why it’s sentimental to you.
  10. Celebrate the reason for the season. Be flexible and change traditions of necessary. For instance, attend an early Christmas Eve service, not midnight Mass.
    • Think about your loved one going to Christmas Eve service. What’s parking going to be like, will it be near the door? What’s the weather, will they have to walk far in the rain snow or wind? Will they have a place to sit? If you plan ahead, it makes the evening much more enjoyable, safer and less stressful for all. Plan your holiday meals at a time that’s convenient for your loved one. Do they fear driving at night? Plan the meal early in the day so they can get home safely and comfortably. Offer to pick them up so they don’t have to drive. GoGoGrandparent is Lyft with special features for seniors. Give them a gift of transportation and independence. 
  11. Focus on others. Get the entire family involved in gathering supplies for a homeless shelter or serving a holiday meal.
    • Home Instead hosts “Be A Santa to a Senior”, donate gifts to their cause. In the past they worked with Meals on Wheels to help deliver the gifts. In 2020 they worked with Amazon to deliver gifts directly to seniors. Either way it’s a great way to  surprise seniors in the community with a nice gift, often it’s the only present they’ll receive.
  12. Stay connected. Help an older adult connect with loved ones far away with the latest technology such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime.
    • Think how far technology has progressed in your loved one’s life. From party lines and wall mounted phones with long cords and large long-distance charges to seeing loved ones live on a pocket-sized phone that is more computer than phone is phenomenal. It’s also very overwhelming. A little mentoring and patience will make the experience memorable for your senior loved ones. 
    • There is a computer designed for seniors that is easy to read, easy to use, easy to set up. Your loved ones will love it!
  13. Give the gift of time. Sometimes all an older adult wants is companionship, whether it’s a few moments of the day or driving tour to view holiday lights. 
    • Seniors don’t need more stuff; they need quality time with you. Share stories of your past-such as the year the Christmas tree fell and was then held up by the hook in the ceiling or the year you sprinkled oatmeal laced with gold glitter so Rudolph and the other reindeer could find your house in the dark and have a snack. Talk about favorite (or least favorite) gifts or the year the turkey was raw, fell on the floor or was eaten by the dog. Those are the memoires on which your loved ones thrive.
  14. Make special traditional dishes your loved one loves but may not be getting anymore.
    • My Mom loves the Christmas breakfast casserole and homemade cinnamon rolls made from a recipe I got in a home economics class I took in 8th grade. My Dad loves creamed onions and creamed corn with oysters. They may not be my favorite dishes but if they like them that’s all that matters. They enjoy the special treats far more than presents for which they have no use.
  15. If you really want to give a gift your loved one can unwrap consider a wifi cloud digital picture frame. You can send photos to it real time and it dings when a new one is received alerting your loved one that a new picture has been added.
    • We got our mom a Pixstar frame and sent the frame’s unique email address to all the family. Now they can send photos to Nana as they happen. We sent college graduation photos as our daughter walked across the stage. Imagine getting pictures as they happen of a grandson scoring a goal in soccer, a granddaughter soloing on the flute, a son playing baseball. What a fantastic way to keep a grandparent involved in daily events.
  16. Does your loved one miss his or her pet? Now there are companion cats and dogs that are designed to bring comfort, companionship and fun to elder loved ones. The ease of care and convenience paired with a state of the art technology makes for the best possible interactive experience for older adults living in senior communities or aging at home, and their caregivers or simply just a person that could use some extra company.

In the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming materialism that he sees everywhere during the Christmas season. Christmas with Senior loved ones doesn’t have to be about objects and spending a lot of money. What’s more important is memories, time, compassion, time, stories, time, thoughtfulness, time, tradition, inclusion, time, and love (and time).  

Please remember to practice all Covid protocols this holiday season. Get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, practice safe distancing. Our seniors depend on you to help keep them safe from the virus.

Article by Liz Fischer a Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Placement Referral Specialist from Right Fit Senior Living Solutions