Want to fill TWO glasses to overflowing during the holiday season-- both yours if you struggle with depression and loneliness during the holidays, and that of a senior citizen living in a care facility or who spends their days at a senior citizen center? That answering elixir is poured from the same bottle: spending time with a person living in a care community combats loneliness.
As we have discussed previously, social connection, that is, human face-to face, heart-to-heart visits are the most potent way to change negative feelings of loss and isolation to feelings of happiness and contentment. And, these visits benefit the giver just as much as the receiver. Isn’t that the coolest?
From my blog on September 24th, Our Vibrant Hearts, we know that no matter our age, we all need social connections to stay healthy. Seniors are no different from twenty-five or forty-five year olds; they’ve just aged a bit. Many of us now have someone—a parent or grandparent, or an extended family member living in a care community. These folks would jump for joy, perhaps only in their own minds, to have a visit from you. This becomes especially true during November and December when they may be yearning for past joyous holiday seasons with loved ones who are no longer here on Earth. This is true for many seniors living in care facilities, and even more so if they don’t have any family, their family is far away, estranged, or just not interested. Now, for the exciting good news? The loneliness and depression both you and the senior might be feeling will melt away like the first snowfall when the two of you share time and stories and, maybe a mug of cocoa, together. Research shows us how powerful these visits are to increase meaningful connection during the holidays, lift the fog of depression and bring joy to every one participating. It also shows that a little goes a long way for both parties. Grand gestures aren’t necessary. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on gifts or plan elaborate get-togethers. Happiness resides in the small things, listening being the number one gift, followed by just holding a person’s hand. These gestures rank as the kindest, most comforting acts one person can give to another; the giver becomes the receiver in the same moment.
This holiday season make a point to visit your elders if you are feeling down, or volunteer an hour or so at a senior care facility. First, contact the facility to be clear on the visiting hours and any planned special events. Then, schedule your visit during a free time so that your senior can relish the one-on-one time with just you. Most older adults love to be around children, especially at the holidays, so bring yours or borrow a niece, nephew, or cousin (assuming you know them well), and take along a favorite toy or book to entertain them just in case. One side note, if the kiddos are under the weather on the day of your planned visit, leave them behind. Seniors are much more susceptible to illness than younger people. After your visit, take a few minutes to sit quietly when you return home and think about how you feel. Savor the interaction as a gift you gave yourself and one you can repeat whenever you have time. That is a blessing of the season.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!