Overhead view of the surrounding countryside

Tips for Seniors to Avoid the Holiday Season Blues

Nov 2, 2022

tips banner

people toasting with wine

Four strategies to strengthen social networks and offset loneliness

As the annual holiday season approaches, we all feel excitement and anticipation, envisioning celebrations with family, socializing with friends and making new memories. We are bombarded with commercials depicting perfect holiday celebrations and perfectly decorated homelike those featured in Hallmark movies.

Real life is not that simple—as people get older, friends may be ill or unable to travel; family members may be far away or committed elsewhere this year. Even if holiday events are firmly in place, bad weather, cancelled flights or illness can unexpectedly hamper the best-laid plans.

When these situations occur, we can feel disappointed, sad or alone. Loneliness is more than an emotion; the American Heart Association found that social isolation and loneliness contributed to a 29% increased risk of heart attack and/or death from heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

As the holiday season approaches this year, we’ve outlined four proactive strategies older adults can adopt to help offset loneliness and social isolation risk all year long:

1. Build more than one community

group of people getting ready for yoga

Human connection is a natural need. By building relationships with different groups of people and communities, you expand your connections and grow your social network Examples of these groups may include former co-workers who meet regularly for breakfast, exercise walks with neighbors, a creative endeavor club, community service organization or musical group ensemble. If you are connected to a religious organization, that’s another community. These varied relationships bolster your overall quality of life through engagement and socialization.

Action Item:

Make a list of your communities and consider expanding your network, if necessary. Additionally, individual members of these groups will also welcome your invitation to see a movie or concert, tour a museum or meet for coffee.

2. Join someone else’s family celebration

Instead of politely declining a friend or neighbor’s holiday invitation, accept the offer and be grateful to be included. Better yet, get involved:

  • Show up early to help set up.
  • Experiment by tasting new foods and drinks.
  • Ask questions about other people’s holiday traditions.
  • Purchase a thoughtful gift for the host as a token of appreciation.

Action item:

Openly share that you don’t have plans for Thanksgiving, for example, and be open to accepting invitations from others. Think positively about spending time with new people and learning about different cultures and traditions.

3. Offer your expertise and donate your time

people with boxes volunteering

Older adults play an important role in community service efforts. From fundraising to donating handmade crafts to working at special events, seniors are in high demand thanks to their reliability and life experience. Volunteering is a win-win—when you help others, you, in turn, also feel great.

Action item:

Ask friends what local organizations they support. Reach out to those that interest you and ask how your time or skills can help. Visit the organization and meet with the staff to understand how they will utilize your skills.

READ: “Applewood Residents Knit Thousands of Soap Sacks for People in Need”

4. Be the host

If you have no holiday engagements, become the host! Bring together others who may be in the same situation and build your own party. Entertaining doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Order in or prepare a simple meal or snacks for all to enjoy. Invite guests to bring a favorite side dish. Play uplifting music that makes you feel good and enjoy being with people who bring you joy. Invite newer acquaintances and get to know them better. If you haven’t hosted recently, start small by inviting just a few friends.

Action item:

Make a list of people you would like to entertain (this can also be held at an external location). Choose a day, time and what you will serve. Will you play cards, watch the big game or celebrate a friend’s birthday? Make a list of the items you need and extend invitations to your fortunate guests.

If engaging in daily living feels too difficult

Spending time with others is good for the body, mind and soul. If carrying through with any of these suggestions feels too difficult or overwhelming, you could be experiencing depression, which is common among older adults, especially during the holiday season.  Reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss how you’re feeling and determine if you may benefit from mental health services.

Applewood is an active, Engaged Living™ retirement community that offers an outstanding lifestyle that inspires socialization through the pursuit of hobbies, events and daily activities. We’d love to tell you more. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and call us at (732) 303-7416 to make plans to tour our community, model apartments and cottage homes.