Making Spirits Bright


Many seniors, whether they are living at home or in a facility, are prone to “holiday blues”. This time of year loneliness and greater difficulty getting around can contribute to depression. For those loved ones living with dementia however, it can be difficult to decipher if symptoms are a sign of dementia or depression. This comprehensive article from lays out the causes of depression in older adults and defines the difference between symptoms of dementia and symptoms of depression. 

Engagement with life and community is one of the best ways to offset holiday blues. Here is our list of suggested activities to make your loved one’s spirit bright this holiday season. Also, if you live far away from your loved one,we've included care package ideas for sending some long-distance love!  

Holiday Activities for Seniors

  • Go out for a drive to look at lights
  • Exchange gifts
  • Tell stories of past holidays while looking at old photos
  • Enjoy family traditions or religious celebrations together
  • Go to a local craft bazars
  • Put on holiday music and wrap gifts
  • Watch favorite holiday films
  • Help your senior make gifts such as a craft project, scrapbook , or compile favorite family recipes together into a digital cookbook for friends and family.    
  • Connect your senior with a nonprofit or charity where you both can contribute through volunteer time, making blankets, serving food ,etc. Call the charity to see what appropriate volunteer opportunities there would be based on your loved one’s abilities.   
  • Make a favorite meal together and involved them in part of the process
  • Sing favorite holiday songs together- music has a powerful connection to memory
  • Address Holiday cards together
  • Decorate with traditional holiday or religious décor remembering to keep pathway clear and uncluttered; a little bit goes a long way.

CARE PACKAGES | Sending Long-Distance Love

Many adult children are living out of state with families of their own and are unable to make the trip home for the holidays. Sending a care package can be a great way to say that you are thinking about your loved one. Creating themed boxes is a great way to personalize your gift while mixing in humor, activities, and fun. Here are our 10 ideas for themed care packages:  

  • Decade Box | books or films on a favorite decade like the 1940’s, a compilation CD of favorite music from that time, themed cookies, photo of family dressed up in fashion from that decade. 
  • Armchair Travel Box | recipes, books, music and small décor from another country or favorite vacation destination. 
  • Arts and Culture Box | Gift certificates to a local museum, book on a favorite artist, CD of an Opera or Symphony, book of poetry, membership or tickets to an independent movie theatre.  
  • Garden Box | seeds for herbs or flowers, gardening books, bird watcher’s guide, new gardening gloves, kneeling pad, or gift certificate for flowers at a local home improvement store. 
  • Sports Box | memorabilia from a favorite sports team, old headlines from past team victories, DVD of classic games, tickets to local sporting events, gift certificate for membership dues to a local country club or new equipment. 
  • Go Local Box | Gift certificates to local restaurants, coffee shops, events, museums, or movie theatres, accessories or art made by local artists, schedule of local farmer’s markets,  map of their city with suggested site-seeing destinations circled on it.   
  • Hobby Box | Supplies for favorite hobbies whether it be craft supplies, a book of writing prompts and a journal, scrapbooking tools, set of films, additions to a collection, or pedometer and walking shoes.
  • Emergency Box | If you’re recipient enjoys something more practical, consider a custom emergency kit for the home or car. 
  • Comfort Box | warm blanket, sweater, set of teas or coffee, subscription to a favorite magazine, games & puzzles, audio books or large print books, gift certificate for a massage, mani/pedi or other therapeutic treatments.    
  • Film Festival Box | Create a long distance Film Festival by having the family watch the same 3-4 old films. Map out a schedule of film dates, and voting rules. Send copies of the films, voting cards for each person to choose best actor/ actress, best picture, soundtrack, costumes, etc., and include popcorn and a lap blanket. Follow up with the results of the family “academy vote” and give awards as a memory. Your films could even have themes such as musicals, military films, comedies, romantic classics, or films made before 1950.   

Include a touch of family in each box by throwing in family photos, artwork from the grandchildren, a photo calendar with phone dates penciled in, an audio greeting or video recording of the family retelling a favorite holiday memory, and of course a letter or card from you and your family.  

Published on December 4, 2012.