Loneliness in older adults during the holidays can be a common and challenging experience. The holidays invoke a natural sense of nostalgia which can be both encouraging and discouraging, depending on each person’s unique experience, and sometimes it can be a bit of both. Remember, older adults have endured a great deal of loss at this stage of their life. They may have lost a spouse or family member that leaves an empty seat at the dinner table. Or it could be as simple as seeing the holiday norms shift as the family grows, prompting the family to embrace the traditions these new members have brought into the family instead. More familiar traditions slip into the shadows of the past and new exciting traditions are welcomed without properly acknowledging what was lost in the process, at least for the elders in the family.
Any of these circumstances can lead to feelings of aloneness. It is essential to make an extra effort to include, engage, and honor the ways older adults may need to grieve as well as celebrate during this special season. Consider having meaningful discussions about their holiday memories and prepare to honor whatever emotions come with these remembrances. Making room to grieve and celebrate, all at once, is important to allow the older adults in our lives to feel included in all this season has to offer.