The festive season brings with it many opportunities to socialise, celebrate and connect with friends and family. It’s the season of sharing time, joy, meals and special moments with your loved ones, and you no doubt want everyone to feel part of the joyous occasion.
But while it’s a wonderful thing for older people to be included, Christmas celebrations can sometimes be difficult for your aged relatives or friends to fully enjoy. Making Christmas accessible for older family members is important, but may sometimes take a little planning and preparation. Here’s how you can make sure your older guests feel loved, included and cared for this Christmas.
Christmas is often exciting and noisy – it all seems to be part and parcel of the fun. But be aware that for older people, high noise levels can quickly become overwhelming, especially if they wear a hearing aid. If there’s loud music playing in the background or lots of talking and chatter going on, those with hearing aids might find this distracting and might be unable to fully engage in conversations. This can be very isolating for older people.
Be aware of noise levels, and try to only include loud music if there’s a reduced need for people to converse (i.e. while playing a game). If people are sitting and having conversations, turn off the music or the TV and allow them to chat and be engaged more easily; or turn the music down until it’s only quiet background noise. Also be aware that your older relative may need a break if there’s lots of loud shouting, games and activities, and provide a quiet space where they can relax for a while.
Similarly, being exposed to too much bright or flashing light may cause issues for older people, particularly those with sensory challenges. While those flashing lights may look wonderful on the tree, don’t leave them on all day if it’s likely to cause an issue for older guests with sensitivities. Have them on for a short while and then leave them off, or turn them onto a solid setting. Also be aware of any eyesight issues experienced by older guests – do they need brighter lighting to be able to see and engage properly (for instance, if playing a game)? Or do they need the lighting to be dimmed a little to give their eyes a break? Asking them what they need to feel comfortable will go a long way towards avoiding stress, anxiety and discomfort.
Those with limited mobility, or who use mobility aids, may find accessing all your Christmas activities a little difficult. When planning your Christmas events, consider which venues are most suited to those with mobility issues, and which will be able to be accessed and used easily. If your house is unable to accommodate mobility needs, consider moving your celebration to a park or venue with disabled access. Also consider how far away your older guest will need to travel, and make arrangements for them to be transported if travel is going to be a problem. Ensure also that they don’t have to walk too far from where they need to park.
As well, while younger members of the party may enjoy physical and fun activities, ensure that there’s also some quieter and more sedentary activities that your older guest can join in with as well. This will prevent them from feeling like an onlooker all day, and will allow them to feel included and part of the celebration.
Time to rest
For the younger members of the family, Christmas is a wonderful time of eating, socialising and excitement – and that’s wonderful. But many older people can find too much time, noise, interaction and activity to be overwhelming. If you’re not used to so much activity, having to spend an entire day socialising, interacting and doing activities can become too much. Be aware that your older friend or family member may need a break at times, so that they can rest and recharge and be able to participate for the rest of the day.
Have a quiet word to them and let them know that if they need a break, that’s fine. Provide them with a room or space where they can go to disconnect for a while and rest – and if possible, make sure it’s quiet and removed from all the activity. Let children know not to disturb the older person for a little while, and keep checking in with the person throughout the day to ensure they are not becoming too overwhelmed and exhausted.
One sure way to make your older guest feel uncomfortable is to make a fuss about adjustments you need to make to help them feel included. No one wants to feel like a burden. Even if the presence of your older friend or relative does require a bit of extra effort on your part, don’t make an unnecessary fuss about it and cause embarrassment and discomfort.
Go to them
If all else fails and you’re unable to accommodate your older guest, make an effort to go and visit them in their home or aged care facility at some point over the festive season. Planning to spend time with them will make them feel important and included.
With a little planning and understanding, your older guest will be able to feel welcome, included and comfortable this Christmas.