The Golden Years – Holiday Season Not Always Bright for Seniors

by Sherrin Griffin VP, Operations, Sidney SeniorCare – 

It seems like every year the holidays become more poignant …. for me anyway. With family members getting older and remembering those who have passed on, I have become excruciatingly aware of the importance of treasuring each and every minute of the holiday season.

In light of healthcare crises, rising interest rates, climate change and economic instability, the holiday season always shines through the same time every year like a stubborn beacon of hope, uniting us all in the common spirit of good will towards others and peace on earth.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali or another cultural or religious festival, it is a truly special time to observe age-old traditions and gather together young and old to enjoy the beauty of the season. The holiday season has the incredulous power to change our focus from the drudgery of our daily routines and worrisome state of the world to the beautiful simplicity of decorating our homes and offices, cooking and baking seasonal delights, gathering in celebration, and showing kindness towards and appreciation of others with thoughtful holiday gestures and gifts.

I observe Christmas, and I find myself wishing it would come more than once a year. Imagine the boundless opportunities for spreading more love, joy and compassion?

Although many of us eagerly anticipate the impending holiday season with childhood delight, myself included, not all of us feel that way. And while the holidays profess to be a time of joy, with that may come unrealistic expectations and unrealized hopes and dreams, leading to feelings of being let down and even depression.

While walking Roxy at the local dog park last weekend, I ran into a fellow dog lover, a senior, who I hadn’t seen for quite some time. While we caught up on our lives on a park bench, she admitted to me that she had spent Christmas alone last year, and most likely would do the same this year. Although subconsciously I know this is the case for far too many seniors, I was nevertheless mortified to hear it. But, the reality is that her story is not unlike many seniors these days. Having been divorced for decades, with children living in another province and finding it hard to connect with other like-minded seniors her age, my friend had found herself alone and miserable on Christmas Day, while others were celebrating with family and/or friends. I made a silent vow to myself to make sure I checked in with her more regularly, and suggested lunch the following weekend.

According to the B.C. Care Providers Association: “spending as little as one hour with a senior living alone or in care over Christmas can help mitigate serious health effects, including a higher risk of mortality, caused by loneliness and social isolation.”

Over the last few holiday seasons, Covid has certainly magnified the solitude, with many seniors afraid to risk family gatherings, and well-meaning family members afraid to infect their elderly relatives. While there have been necessary precautions to take over the last few years, I think we have now learned that those precautions must be tempered with understanding and compassion of the terrible toll that reduced visitations have taken on our elderly. With Statistics Canada stating that in 2018 almost 30% of Canadian seniors lived alone, and that over 20% of seniors say they want more social interaction, it’s a sobering reminder of our responsibilities as conscientious members of society. We may tell ourselves that we can’t possibly make any kind of real difference on our own, BUT a small gesture or even the tiniest gift of time for a senior in need could very well be their best holiday gift of all.

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