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The older I become the more I begin to understand the aspects that go into making the holidays perfect. There is not a doubt in my mind that my great-grandmother loved having her whole family reunited during the holiday season, however the stressors accompanied by the sound of laughter filling every crevice of her home, the delicious exhibit of food spread across her massive table and the endless displays of genuine love for one another could easily have become unbearable. The foods, the gifts, the atmosphere that must be set forth are things that simply cannot be captured at any other time of the year. The negative parts of the holidays are something that I was not prepared for as an adult.

Only now do I realize how much pressure was placed on my great-grandmother. The sad truth is that seniors are far more likely to be at risk for hunger, loneliness, and anxiety during the holiday season. Senior citizens are living on a fixed income all through the year; the problem being, their bills are not fixed. During the holiday season, power bills are generally increased due to that beautiful Christmas tree on display, the stove and other appliances running overtime to make those delicious meals, and an elevated number of people a home.

Couple the increase in utility bills with the added expense of extra food and it becomes a stressful situation for seniors. Where will the extra money come from? The truth is that many seniors will walk a very fine line of excessive hunger and place themselves at risk for hypothermia. They will eat less in order to put a large spread on their tables for the holidays and turn their heat down to ensure that their power bill does not skyrocket. It is recommended that your thermostat should not be set any lower than 68 degrees. If it is set lower than that, the risk of developing hypothermia increases rapidly.

Having family back into your home for the holidays can become a double-edged sword for many seniors. While they love having their families’ home, they are not accustomed to having so many people or things go on in their home. Children can especially cause an increase in anxiety for seniors. What may not bother a child’s mother may be making a grandmother’s skin crawl. As a general rule of thumb, be more cautious of your actions when in a senior’s home and try to keep your voice at a moderate level. Most seniors are used to be home alone or with only one other person therefore, adding a large group makes can cause an increase in anxiety.

After all the gifts have been opened, the dishes put away and everyone goes on their way—senior are left alone. Being conscious of the fact that many seniors are dealing with loneliness prior to the holiday season will help alleviate some of the stresses seniors face when their families go back to their daily lives. Make a point to stop in once or twice a week to see the senior in your life, or if you are not able to visit often, find ways that your senior can become involved in group activities or senior centers.

The holidays are a season full of family, fun, and love. Let’s not forget the wonderful traditions our prior generations have instilled in us by letting them down during the holidays. Simple things such as bringing an extra bag of food or preparing an extra dish for dinner, staying a few hours longer or paying extra attention to how a senior is feeling this season can mean all the difference. Taking a few minutes out of your hectic holiday schedule to spend with a senior is something that will not only make their day, but warm your heart as well. Merry Christmas and May the Good Lord richly bless each and every one of you.