Holiday Loneliness: 10 Ways Seniors Can Fight the Holiday Blues

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In a Home Instead Senior Care survey, 80 percent of older adults listed isolation or loneliness among their biggest fears for the future. Over the holidays, seniors and their family caregivers can participate in a variety of projects to help older adults ward off loneliness. Programs like Be a Santa to a Senior can also help. This service campaign partners Home Instead Senior Care's 700-plus senior care franchises with retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada to ensure that isolated seniors receive gifts and companionship.

That's why it's so important for families and friends to remember their senior loved ones during the holidays and for older adults to reach out if they need help.

In a Home Instead Senior Care survey, 80 percent of older adults listed isolation or loneliness among their biggest fears for the future. Over the holidays, seniors and their family caregivers can participate in a variety of projects to help older adults ward off loneliness. Programs like Be a Santa to a Senior can also help. This service campaign partners Home Instead Senior Care's 700-plus senior care franchises with retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada to ensure that isolated seniors receive gifts and companionship.

With isolation or loneliness listed among the major fears for those over age 65, it's no wonder that many older adults face the holidays with dread.

In a Home Instead Senior Care survey, 80 percent of older adults listed isolation or loneliness among their biggest fears for the future*. "We see many seniors who are without family during the holidays," said Paul Hogan, co-founder and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care. "That's why it's so important for families and friends to remember their senior loved ones during the holidays and for older adults to reach out if they need help."

Seniors and their family caregivers can participate in a variety of projects to help older adults ward off loneliness over the holidays. Programs like Be a Santa to a Senior can also help. This service campaign partners Home Instead Senior Care's 700-plus senior care franchises with retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada to ensure that isolated seniors receive gifts and companionship.

Here's how the Be a Santa to a Senior program works. Prior to the holiday season, local non-profit organizations identified needy and isolated seniors in their communities and provided those names to Home Instead Senior Care.

Christmas trees in the retail partners' stores feature ornaments with the first names of the seniors and their gift requests. Holiday shoppers can pick up an ornament, buy items on the list, and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the ornament attached.

Gifts are then wrapped and delivered to these seniors prior to the holidays. Visit the Be a Santa to a Senior Web site to find tree locations in your area.

There are other ways that seniors can fight the blues during the holiday season. Family caregivers can be a great source of encouragement to help keep their loved ones motivated:

1. Volunteer. Homeless shelters and other organizations that serve the needy are always looking for help, particularly during the holiday season. Call and find out what you can do for them. Many organizations need a variety of help that can match any skill or activity level.

2. Call a friend. If you haven't talked to a friend or neighbor for a while, why not call and schedule an outing or coffee at your house? Hearing from you will certainly brighten their day.

3. Get online. A study from the Phoenix Center found that spending time online reduces depression by 20 percent for seniors. Communicating with friends and family through the Internet has become a popular way to stay in touch. You can find news and many other interesting and educational sites online as well.

4. Write a letter. If you're not comfortable with the Internet, send letters. Write not only to friends and family, but think about sending a note to someone who is ill or going through a hard time. Why not call your church or synagogue for a list of those whom you could contact? There's nothing like a heartfelt card or note to lift the spirits of someone who is suffering.

5. Stay active. If you're a senior fit enough for activity, think about a walking program or some type of activity that can keep you moving. Many seniors walk in the mall during the winter. If you haven't exercised for a while, be sure to contact your doctor before you begin any activity program.

6. Get involved. Most communities and churches host choirs or plays that you could be a part of to get you in the holiday spirit.

7. Decorate your space. It may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas in your community, and it could be at your house as well. Why not get out your holiday decorations and give your home or apartment that festive feel. If you don't have any decorations, purchase a few inexpensive items from your local discount or dollar store.

8. Make a list. Write down everything that you're thankful for this year. You might be surprised and uplifted at what your list reveals about your life.

9. Watch a movie. The holidays are a great season for movies, old and new. If nothing in the previews appeals to you, consider a classic such as "White Christmas" or "Miracle on 34th Street."

10. Be a CAREGiver or get one. If you're a healthy and active senior, why not think about a part-time job? Caregiving is a great one. Home Instead Senior Care often hires seniors to serve as companions for other older adults. Or, if you're in need of assistance, a professional caregiver could provide companionship and support to you.

*] The Boomer Project completed online interviews with 523 seniors in the U.S.

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Dan Wieberg
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