Thanksgiving is a time for appreciating all of life's gifts. However, finding joy in the holiday can be more challenging for some seniors — particularly those far away from loved ones, dealing with dietary restrictions, and other common issues facing older adults. If you are organizing the Thanksgiving festivities within your senior living community, read on for five tips aimed at helping seniors kick off the holiday season in high spirits.
1. Think Beyond Thanksgiving
Just because Thanksgiving happens once a year doesn't mean Thanksgiving-related events must be limited to a single day. Instead, amp up anticipation by scheduling several gratitude-themed activities in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday.
One simple yet significant way to get seniors in the mood to give thanks? Set up a gratitude tree which residents can decorate with notes about what they're grateful for. These can be shared with the entire group on Thanksgiving Day. An added benefit? Hearing these words of gratitude read aloud are a wonderful way to boost collective morale in a senior living community.
2. Promote Participation
One of the best ways to help seniors feel truly engaged around the holidays? Invite them to help with the planning and preparation. From making decorations and designing place cards for the big day to taking suggestions for the menu and/or encouraging them to write thank-you letters to the people in their lives who may not be by their side for the holidays, these activities help seniors become active participants as opposed to passive bystanders. They'll not only feel more connected to the holiday, the community and each other, but will also derive a priceless feeling of pride from their contributions.
3. Managing the Meal
Senior living face some challenges when it comes to serving Thanksgiving meals to their diverse community members. Luckily, just a bit of research can lead you to an abundance of healthy recipes. From low-sodium sides to heart-healthy turkeys to diabetes-friendly desserts, a small amount of meal planning yields big results by letting you serve up all of your community members' favorite holiday foods without compromising their health and wellness.
Related: Healthy Food Choices for a Longer Life
4. Mental Health Matters
While Thanksgiving for most people is a time to count blessings, for some seniors it can be a reminder of the many things they miss. This feeling can grow more intense as the holiday season continues. This is why it's critical for everyone from senior living community staff to family members to keep watch for signs of the “holiday blues,” including irritability, sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in eating and other daily activities, and lack of attention to hygiene and personal care.
Emotional ups and downs are a part of life, and encouraging seniors to talk about their feelings can help them feel better. However, symptoms which last more than two weeks may require professional treatment.
5. Make time to move
Lastly, get everyone up and moving. Exercise isn't just good for the body, but also good for the soul. In addition to planning a holiday meal, plan a holiday walk or other group fitness session afterwards. If the weather is agreeable, head outdoors: Sunlight and fresh air can work magic on a sour outlook.
Older adults have plenty to give thanks for, but sometimes a little extra nudge is needed getting there. These five tips can help senior living communities do their part to help seniors enjoy truly healthy, happy Thanksgiving holidays. For more useful content on everything from senior caregiving to senior housing, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.