As summer fades into fall and the weather gets cooler, many of us begin looking forward to our favorite holidays. The holidays bring many favorite traditions and joys, from Halloween candy and Thanksgiving dinner to Hanukkah, Christmas, and other beloved celebrations.
However, the season can also bring unique challenges and risks for seniors. Discover health and safety tips to enjoy a joyous holiday season.
7 Health Tips for Seniors to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season
Flu season reaches its peak in the fall and winter, perfectly coinciding with our favorite holiday celebrations, where germs can spread easily. It's important to stay up to date with your vaccines, including the seasonal flu shot, especially in light of the pandemic! If you haven’t already, schedule your flu shot and COVID vaccine.
Stay in Touch With Relatives
Isolation is a health risk for seniors living alone, but it can be especially difficult during the holidays. Call and video chat with your loved ones throughout the holiday season, especially if your family is busy, lives far away, or if health concerns make visiting difficult.
Get more tips to help combat loneliness this holiday season from the National Council on Aging.
Participate in Social Activities
Seasonal social activities can also help combat feelings of depression and loneliness around the holiday season. Seniors and their loved ones can check in with their religious organization, community resources, or the activities director at their senior living community to find activities offering social and spiritual support.
Seniors can also find connection through their hobbies. Sewing or knitting circles and book clubs offer social opportunities through the holiday season.
Balance Seasonal Treats and Healthy Eating
There's no shame in enjoying those holiday cookies and other tasty treats with family during this time of year! Balancing heavier holiday dinners with lighter lunch and dinner choices, for example, can help seniors maintain a healthy diet.
If you or your loved ones have medical dietary needs, such as eating low sodium or low fat, be mindful and plan holiday menus around those needs.
Stay Active While Staying Festive
Staying active can be tough during the winter when the weather is chilly and it's harder to go outside. Consider holiday activities that encourage exercise, like taking a walk to Trick-or-Treat with grandkids in October or see the Christmas lights with family in December, if appropriate.
Be Proactive to Prevent Falls
California winters are often warm and sunny, which means when icy conditions do arise, they can take us by surprise. Be cautious to prevent falls in the winter with steps like:
- Avoiding decorations that can become tripping hazards like power chords that cross a walkway
- Using any needed mobility aids like a cane or walker
- When the weather is icy, seniors should opt for shoes with good traction, and ask friends and family for help whenever needed
Include Relatives with Memory Impairment in Celebrations Safely
Taking some additional steps can help make this season easier for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia.
Plan in advance to safeguard their health and wellbeing while including them in holiday traditions. For example, Trick-or-Treaters are often out after dusk, which can coincide with sundowning symptoms for loved ones with Alzheimer's. Consider posting a "No Trick-or-Treaters sign" to minimize stress. This can extend to other holidays as well. Thanksgiving dinner and other evening celebrations can be planned earlier in the day if needed to accommodate loved ones. Other precautions, like simplifying celebrations and preparing loved ones in advance for the situation, can also help.
The holidays are a time of joy, but they can also bring unique health risks and stresses for many seniors. This fall and winter, prioritize physical and mental wellbeing for you or your senior loved ones to enjoy a happier holiday season.