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Published on December 01, 2015

grandparents getting gifts from grandchild

Treasuring Older Generations During the Holidays

Parties, school concerts, church services and last-minute deadlines — there’s no busier time than the holidays.

Despite the hustle and bustle, the holidays are a great time to think about members of older generations in your family and how you can make their holiday a little easier, safer and jollier. It just may be the perfect gift.

Reducing Stress

One of the top drawbacks of the holiday season is stress. From buying gifts to making lefse, the to-do list never seems to get shorter.

"Struggling to find perfect gifts every year can be stressful, but it can also provide an opportunity for a new family tradition," said Megan Enfield, CSW, lead social worker with Avera@Home. "Instead of fretting over shopping, share a day together, shopping with the recipient. Or share time as you enjoy wrapping the gift and baking together."

Sending Christmas cards is a treasured tradition for older adults. When you’re at the photo center ordering your family’s Christmas card, help your parents or grandparents out by ordering their cards as well. If they wrote a letter to accompany their photo, get it printed on festive paper.

Preparing for Christmas Day is also hectic. If an older relative typically hosts the annual gathering, take a chance and have the celebration at your house. Or, offer to go early and help get things ready. To make it easier, divvy out the side dishes, relishes and desserts to relatives who will be attending.

Improving Safety

When the cold and ice sets in, it’s easy to be concerned about mom and dad’s safety both inside and outside of the home. A bad fall, for example, could result in the loss of independence.

To avoid such injuries, help with decorations that require heavy lifting or ladder use. This may include hanging lights outdoors or setting up the Christmas tree. If you aren’t available to shovel the sidewalk after each snow, hire a neighbor for the task.

When roads are particularly snowy, offer to take older adults to their appointments or the grocery store. It can help when adult children are more involved in their parents’ health care. Two heads are better than one when a physician is discussing medication routines and follow-up care.

"We can all take for granted the daily tasks that come so easy to us. As we age, it is hard to ask loved ones to help us, and it’s hard to lose control of our independence," said Enfield. “The key is to find the balance between helping loved ones and respecting their independence.”

Increasing Joy

Though it’s the season of joy, it’s easy for older adults to become isolated and lonely. Even from afar, we want to make sure loved ones have a happy holiday.

Not only does a regular phone call keep them in the loop, tech-savvy adults may enjoy using FaceTime or Skype to watch grandkids decorate the tree, open gifts or read a bedtime story. They get to be a part of the experience.

There are professional services as well as church groups that can visit older adults regularly for coffee, games, lunch, Bible studies or caroling. Check to see if their community has a senior center or if a city parks and recreation department offers events catered to older adults. Give movie tickets or restaurant gift cards — something they can truly enjoy and use.

“We so often get caught up in the busy nature of the holiday season, and forget what Christmas is really about,” said Enfield. “When our focus becomes our faith, our relationships and giving of ourselves, the holidays become meaningful in the way they are truly intended.”

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