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Activity Directors - Holiday Mindfulness - Look for the Magic

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Holiday Mindfulness  ……..  

Author: M. Celeste Chase AC-BC, ACC, CDP

Activity Directors Network - ActivityDirector.org



The holidays are an emotional time, a time in when our focus is on connecting and making memories with the ones that mean the most to us. It is a time typically filled with joy and cheer as well as happy anticipation. Many of us will take time off from work to give ourselves more leisure time to enjoy those magical moments of gift giving and receiving, enjoy friends and family gatherings and a take part of bountiful food set upon the table. 


The magical component about annual events such as holidays and birthdays, is that they leave us with an indelible hall marker – a framed still picture of sorts; left behind to lead us back to what that moment represented. Although we may forget what that still picture looked like with the passing of time, we do not lose the ability to sense how we felt about that moment till long after.


During the upcoming season, be mindful that aside from how the residents’ personal old history has colored their view of holiday or birthday events, he/she may also assimilated more (recent) new experiences related to the aging process itself that further changes the residents’ outlook and attitude about the upcoming holidays.


 Below listed just a few samples of emotional and physical issues that may greatly affect how the resident perceives his/her own quality of life.

  1. Limited mobility –Decreased ability to move around as they used to, now needing the help of a walker, a wheelchair, or is fragile and at risk of falling can hinder their ability to fully participate in the holiday celebration. Medical conditions like arthritis or previous injuries can prohibit full mobility so be mindful of how physical health can dampen the holiday spirit. Enlist a skilled professional to assess if medication management would be helpful if not already in place.
  2. Living in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility – One of the greatest things about the holidays is enjoying your time at home. Many seniors mourn the loss of their home life and long for the comforts of their own home during the holidays and reminisce about the traditions created there over the years.
  3. Depression – It is important to note that sadness during the holiday season is a relatively normal experience for some seniors. However, if you have noticed that symptoms of depression are a year-round occurrence, it is important to take action and once again consult a skilled professional
  4. Recession – The recession hit some people very hard and many seniors are now living on a limited, fixed income. Your loved one may be upset that they cannot provide an abundant holiday like they used to and this may cause them to feel inadequate when it comes time for the family to unwrap their gifts.
  5. Seasonal Affective Disorder - The holiday season can trigger a seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder – SAD) that can take toll on their wellbeing. If depression is already a concern, seasonal depression will make the current problem worse.

            NOTE:  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can include fatigue, desire

             to sleep more, apathy, desire to be left alone, low energy and weight

            gain due to carbohydrate cravings and depression. This condition must

            be clinically evaluated for appropriate treatment or interventions to be initiated.


Loneliness is one of the most prevalent factors leading to depression during the holiday season. Over the years, the loved ones lost are mourned; loss of physical mobility is mourned often damaging our emotional wellbeing in a significant way. It is often enough sadness to leave anyone feeling down regardless of age.

Be aware that elders tend to brush of or minimize how they are truly feeling. They may explain that they are having an “off day” simply because that they did not get enough sleep the night before or they may tell you that they are just getting over a cold or they may not actually really know why they are feeling out of sorts.

Activity professionals need to tread gently with their own personal exuberance and excitement during this time of year and carefully listen to the cues that your resident will give you to help you better understand their needs.  When your interpretation is accurate you will discover ways to create meaningful moments that will allow them to fully embrace and celebrate the holiday season once again. 


Here are some ideas for the holidays that might connect with your resident:


Grow an amaryllis: Kits for these magnificent large blooms are plentiful at holiday time, and they come in many colors. The amaryllis grows significantly every day for weeks, so you can literally watch it get bigger from day to day. They grow into large blossoms and are stunning in a group.

Facility Based Holiday craft fair: Here is an idea to make a craft fair event. Use your creative skills and make a dollar bill; “look-a-like” This is money that residents can use to make purchases at their very own facility holiday craft fair. Send a flyer to families and local communities to donate items for the fair. Each resident is given “look-a-like” money the day of the fair to make purchases. The generosity of others during the holiday is amazing and your resident’s reaction will be amazing too.

Make a gingerbread house: Gingerbread houses are highly creative holiday activities for seniors and have all sorts of possibilities. You can tailor the process to your participants, using an easy kit, or baking the gingerbread from scratch and cutting it out from a pattern. You can even invite a professional baker to razzle and dazzle your residents.

Tea Party holiday memories:  Reading and discussing good books over a cup of tea always sparks meaningful engagement. Published holiday books are in an abundance to choose from. Make sure you have at least three possible book options, one of which might elicit a few laughs to ensure success.  

Sharing cultures: Holiday activities for many of us may cross a number of cultures and traditions. Almost everyone celebrates something during the winter months. You might invite your residents to decorate a designated area in their traditional cultural manner. Offer baked allow the residents to taste special foods, play special music, etc. The sharing of cultures can improve your residents’ sense of pride & celebrates his/her personal history & origins.

“I once heard someone say that it was not helpful to be approached by a happy or cheery person at a time when they had personally been feeling out of sorts but that all changed when I tickled their funny bone and they found laughter again.”


M. Celeste Chase, AC-BC, ACC, CDP


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