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Extending the Holiday Ambiance into the Winter Months

It’s not just marketing. The images of warm homes with festive decorations are real. You see them through windows, not just in crowd-stopping shop windows. They are meant to be cozy and induce good cheer. During this season, we welcome family and friends indoors and make the environment exciting and comfortable for both visitors and dwellers. It’s about color, family and, in gatherings.

We hang garlands, cards, wreaths, stockings, banners, lights, and plants of various colors. Special music is played. Scents fill the air that evoke traditional foods and drink, sometimes with more contemporary variations. We bring rich celebratory foods to the table even if they are not always healthful. They’re attractive and preserve our religious and cultural heritage.

As we celebrate our family traditions and enjoy time off from work and routines, let’s think about the elderly. They are stuck indoors during the cold winter months. They aren’t traveling and are stuck in their routines and roster of doctor’s appointments.  It’s going to be a long gray stretch for them while they will most likely avoid people and viruses.

What can we do to make their home environments cozy and gemutlich in look and feel? Thinking creatively about what we do during the holidays is a good prompt. If we bring in color, decorations, plants, good smells, and celebratory rituals, we are off to a good start. Crafting, baking, hanging bright items, and creating new regular rituals may help. Whether it’s making and decorating a big wall calendar page with family anniversaries, birthdays, and memorable occasions (not just the serious ones like trips and graduations but also the silly ones) will make the month exciting. Photos old and new can be added to the margins and days so that it is not just filled with doctor and pharmacy reminders. Revisiting memories brings good cheer to a person, whatever the age.

Choosing a weekly day for a special surprise or delivery of a pretty notecard will give your senior something to anticipate. If you pair a sensory, food, or musical treat with an unpleasant regular event like an injection or medical procedure (think dialysis or blood sugar testing), it can turn into a much more pleasant part of the day, anticipated instead of dreaded.

Figuring out ways to make a home environment holiday-level cheerful, is a job. It takes creativity and it takes a team. However, if you gather some family members on a zoom call and brainstorm for a while, you will come up with a list of things that you know will make a difference to your senior. What makes grandma laugh? What makes grandma happy? Which celebrities past and present have been on grandma’s lips? Are good icebreakers. And then you can divvy them up between family members near and far.

Music, not just photos, provoke memories. Put together a playlist or buy music from your parent’s youth. Ask for an old recipe or two. Send “unholiday cookies” with wacky and whimsical designs. The grandkids can make something from a kit and then send it. Then they can send the grandparent the same kit and ask her to make something with it and send it back. Provoke engagement creatively.

Faraway teens can send a weekly funny card, homemade or bought that can be hung around the calendar or near a kitchen table. Adults can print out old photos and send them regularly. Getting out the envelopes and stamps may be an old-fashioned activity but you can prepare these brief cards in batches so all you have to do is mail them out on the same day each week. Thus, it’s not a chore you have to think about. Even little kids can write out knock knock jokes and send them each week. You can send a puzzle or two or a new card game. Anything that stimulates the senses, engages the senior, or changes up the home environment is worthwhile. It doesn’t have to cost much, just some thought. 

With the months of January, February, March and April to plan before the weather warms up, it is only about seventeen weeks to fill with cheery music, memories, and missives.

Your parent’s aide will be inspired to add her contributions and creativity if she sees the family being proactive about sending little cheerful items, which do not have to cost.

Got your own ideas for stimulating your senior and fixing up her home during the winter weather? Please share them.

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