Enjoying holiday celebrations with seniors

By 4  am on

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.
-Mother Theresa

Holidays are a special time to share and connect with the people we hold dearest. Family gatherings and celebrations are occasions to show our love, gratitude, and connectedness with our loved ones, from the littlest to the eldest.

The reality for many seniors, ironically, is that holiday gatherings sometimes intensify feelings of isolation. They may feel overlooked in preparations, festivities and conversations, or worse, they may feel that they have become a burden to their loved ones.

A bit of planning and some small adjustments to family festivities can help our elders feel seen and appreciated, even if they are limited by health or mobility challenges. Including them in family fun activities, in any way they are capable, helps them feel part of the family and gives them a sense of belonging.

Ideas to engage elders at family holiday gatherings

  • Encourage them to participate in gift-giving by helping them select, shop for and wrap presents well in advance of the event.
  • Ask them to help with easy food prep, setting the table, preparing name tags or anything that they will recognize as useful.
  • Designate an elder to distribute presents at the family gift exchange.
  • Ask them to participate or lead a simple game that is within their abilities. “Go fish” is still a favourite and easy card game!
  • Bring out old photo albums and encourage Grammie or Grammpie to give context for the photos. This can build a bond between elders and even the littlest ones, who are usually eager to learn about their family history.
  • Keep elders engaged in conversations by asking open-ended questions.
  • Have them supervise a holiday craft project for little ones.


If your elderly parent or relative suffers from dementia, their remaining abilities will determine the activities they can partake in at your family gathering. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends to plan ahead for these special needs, simplify activities and most important of all set realistic expectations. Be sure to factor in safety concerns by assigning an adult for supervision of your loved one at all times. If possible, share this responsibility among a few family members so that everyone has time to enjoy the festivities.

For more information on holiday tips for caregivers of a person living with dementia please see Holidays and Events at alzheimer.ca

When it comes to family get-togethers or celebrations, don’t assume that an elderly relative or parent is not interested in participating. Extend a timely and definitive invitation that makes them feel welcome and integral to the celebration. Don’t let them off the hook too easily if they don’t accept right away, as this could be their way of testing your real willingness to include them.

If you feel they may be hesitant to accept your invitation due to health or mobility issues, let them know that you are cognizant of their concerns and will take steps to maximize their comfort. Go through the specifics of the celebration with them and discuss any adjustments that could be made to accommodate their limitations.

Before the festivities, have a conversation with young children and teenagers about the importance of making their elders feel loved and appreciated.  Give them tips on how they can help engage and bond with older adults. Remember they will take their cues from you.

Those of us that are old enough to have elderly parents know all too well that it’s best not to worry too much about how things “should be” as opposed to how they are. Sometimes even the best planning falls flat. Your loving efforts to engage and include your elderly loved one may not work this time. If that is the case, be kind to yourself by focusing on your good intentions rather than on your disappointment with the results.

At Home Care Assistance Vancouver, we focus on providing long-term quality care for seniors. We believe staying connected, active and curious are the keys to quality of life for Vancouver seniors as they age.

To learn more about our services, visit Home Care Assistance Vancouver at www.homecareassistancevancouver.ca, servicing the Greater Vancouver area.

Thinking about in-home care for your loved one? Call us for your complimentary in-home consultation at (778) 715 5098

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