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Better Holidays for Seniors

Remember older relatives' needs when planning gatherings.

November 22, 2001|From Hartford Courant

Holidays can be a time of great joy, especially when the whole family comes together to share rituals, food and memories. But hosting a multigenerational event can take some preparation to ensure that everyone--especially elderly relatives and friends--experiences a safe, comfortable time together.

Elderly guests may have special needs or physical limitations that can affect the quality of their visit, says Kathy Cookson, director of the Robinson, an assisted-independent-living section of the McLean Home in Simsbury, Conn.

For example, do they use a walker or cane? Need assistance with stairs or bathing? Make sure there are comfortable chairs close by, but not in the middle of all the activity. Look for obstacles, such as throw rugs, chairs or decorations that could pose a hazard.

"Remember to check on dietary restrictions, medication schedules, mealtimes and bedtimes, then do what you can to accommodate them," says Cookson, who often consults with families of residents going home for the holidays.

Keep in mind that for some aging family members, the gathering may be very tiring. "The sheer energy of the youngest generation might wear out the most senior generation," says Andrea Tannenbaum, president of Dynamic Living, an online Internet store specializing in adaptive items for people with special needs.

Designate quiet space in another room or out-of-the-way spot. Encourage rest periods midway through the day, or plan calmer activities such as looking at scrapbooks or sharing family stories and history.

Finally, be sure that everyone who wants it has an important role to play. "Older adults have a lot to contribute and should be allowed to participate in their very special ways. Whether it's reading or telling a story to the little ones, overseeing the making of the stuffing or gravy, or sitting at the kitchen table and drying the silver, let them contribute and participate. It'll make the holidays more meaningful for everyone."


The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Co. newspaper.

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