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Tips for making the holidays brighter

For many older adults, especially if they live alone, the holidays can be stressful and even depressing.

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The holidays are often a time of joy, togetherness and good cheer. However, for many older adults, especially if they live alone, the holidays can be stressful and even depressing.

Older adults are more likely to have experienced the loss of significant others, good health, independence and mobility, and a reduced sense of purpose. During this time of year, paying attention to our aging parents, family members, friends and neighbors is important.

The holidays can be a wonderful time, but they also can be filled with enormous challenges, such as loneliness, sadness and grief. Simple gestures to reach out to older adults around us can help them feel appreciated and valued, making the holidays more rewarding for everyone involved.

If you have older friends or family members you are concerned about this holiday season, you can help them enjoy the December festivities by following these suggestions:


  • Be inclusive. Extend an invitation to your older family members and friends and include them in holiday activities. For example, if you are preparing a holiday party, ask them to help decorate the tree or make a favorite holiday dish to share. Feeling useful and needed is important to all of us.

  • Make new memories. For older adults who live alone or do not get out of the house much, doing something new can be exciting and a great mood lifter. Consider taking them on a drive to look at holiday lights or invite them to your child’s holiday programs. Getting outdoors can be beneficial for people confined indoors during the winter months.

  • Promote social connections. Social connectedness is especially important during the holidays. Loneliness is a serious and difficult emotion for anyone and has been linked to increased risk for depression and poor health. Think about meaningful ways you can reach out to older adults in your life.

  • Encourage reminiscing. Gathering together with family and friends during the holidays is a perfect time to share memories and past experiences. Talking about holiday traditions and memories can be important during the later years of life. Looking at photo albums and family videos, or watching favorite classic holiday movies can encourage older adults to share their stories and experiences.

  • Increase communication efforts. If you do not live close by, make an extra effort to communicate with your older family members and friends during the holiday season. Be sure to send them a holiday greeting card in the mail and make a few more phone calls to stay connected.

For more information on aging well, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at (701) 252-9030 or

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