Safely Include Senior Family Members in the Festivities This Christmas

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Worried about how to include older members of the family in your holiday celebrations this year? Social distancing can take a mental toll, especially during a time that is usually all about family gatherings. As you plan for the holidays, it’s important to keep in mind every member of the family, especially older and immunocompromised members that are more vulnerable. 

While it is important to stay safe, it’s equally as important to stay in contact and include everyone in your celebrations. Here are several simple tips for how to safely include the senior family members in this year’s holiday celebrations.

Stay in Contact

It’s important to let family members know that they’re not alone whether you’re socially distant or geographically separated. Set aside time to call them often; it can help to schedule a time to talk every week. Keep them up to date with what’s happening in your life and make sure to ask about them too. It can also be nice to change up how you reach out. Try snail mail or creative ecards and give a personal touch. You can also add a family photo to your card to make it extra special!

Set Up Family Conference Calls

If gathering in person with our loved ones is not feasible, that doesn’t mean we should miss out on seeing them this holiday season. Coordinate having loved ones get together at the same time to join a video call. One important thing to do ahead of time is to decide on a video platform and make sure everyone is familiar with the program beforehand to make sure the call goes smoothly. Thankfully there are plenty of tools you can use to set up a call that are easy and free. Some people have actually experienced more people showing up than they would in person because of the accessibility of the software! Here’s some of our favorites:

  • Zoom: Free for calls up to 100 people with a 45-minute call limit. Participants can share their screen easily, send messages, and even record the call to save for those who can’t make it. You can share a link that leads directly to the call. There is a browser version that you can use but downloading lets you get the most out of it!

  • Skype: Free, features messaging, polling, screen and document sharing for up to 50 people. You are required to download the app, but it has been around for a while and many people are already familiar with it.

  • Google Meet: Free and web-based so you don’t need to download anything. Share a link to the call to have others join easily, up to 250 people.

Once you’ve decided on how to set up your call, you can set up a date and time; however, it’s also a good idea to have everyone test out the program beforehand to make sure everything goes smoothly when the time comes. It may be a good idea to get someone in your family to help out with IT if any technical issues arise. Consider sending a digital invitation with a link to simplify the process. Using a digital invitation can provide you with a beautiful, personalized way to share details and track RSVPs for everyone who plans to attend. You can also include a direct link to the call!

Find Alternatives to Old Traditions

A large part of the holiday season is the traditions that we celebrate as families. Try to research or create alternatives to the traditions they are accustomed to. Some options include a virtual candlelight service, dinner, or game night using a video platform. Many communities are coming together to host virtual religious services that you can attend. When planning a dinner with family and friends using a video service, try to share recipes for your favorite dishes and plan a menu to make together! You can even bring family and friends together to enjoy a night of trivia by using the screen sharing features of the programs mentioned above.

Include Them in a Project

Another way to include elderly family members in holiday celebrations is to start a holiday-themed project, such as a digital scrapbook, and encourage them to get involved. This can help them feel a sense of purpose while also enjoying a holiday-themed activity. Usually these projects turn out even better with some additional participation thanks to access to additional resources and extra ideas! Not only can you share recent photos, but you can also look over and relive some past memories through the photos you share. Sometimes family elders are the only ones who can identify people in old family photos! 

Utilize Delivery Services

Try to surprise older family members with a gift in the mail or a surprise at their door! You can brighten their day this holiday season with a secret santa gift, takeout delivery, or even a special grocery drop-off. There are plenty of restaurants and stores that offer online delivery and gift cards, so why not send them a favorite meal or something they’ve talked about recently? Small gestures such as this can let them know that you’re thinking about them and even lighten their daily load a little bit (in the case of always-needed grocery items). 

This holiday season, it may be hard to encourage older family members to stay at home and minimize contact with others but it’s important to stay safe and healthy. The more you can find creative ways to include them in the holidays -- through phone calls, video calls, family projects, and special holiday deliveries -- the less they will feel alone at the most wonderful time of year. 

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