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What Seniors Really Want for the Holidays

Many people are making merry this time of year — planning get-togethers with family and friends, shopping, baking, and decorating. Yet many people are not feeling so festive. Some older adults, in fact, feel melancholy or even depressed, as the holidays are a reminder of what’s been lost.

“The tough truth is, growing old is about loss: loss of job on retirement, loss of ability as the body ages, loss of friends and family as others move away or become ill, and as it becomes more difficult to travel to visit,” says Maria Hood, director of admissions at United Hebrew. “For older adults, the world has become smaller; their social circles have shrunk.”

On top of that, for many seniors, there is short-term memory loss may occur, even if long-term memory remains sharp. So, spending time with family members who share a common history is a way to bring past holidays alive again. It becomes even more important.

For these reasons, time with close friends and family becomes more precious, notes Hood. “The holiday gift of your presence — rather than presents — may be the best gift you can give to your elderly loved one.”

9 Ways to Give the Holiday Gift of Time this Season


  1. Prepare a meal your loved ones enjoy or take them out to dinner.
  2. Offer a few hours of your time to help your loved ones run errands: to the post office, the grocery store, the drycleaner or doctor.
  3. Help your senior with holiday-related tasks like putting up a Christmas tree, taking them to religious services, baking holiday cookies, driving them around to see the holiday light displays.
  4. If mobility allows, take them on a cultural excursion such as a trip to a local museum or gallery.
  5. Help de-clutter a basement, attic, or any other space that needs curating.
  6. Select music with your loved one and create a few playlists for their enjoyment on a digital music player.
  7. Attend a musical performance together.
  8. Watch a movie together. Read aloud a favorite book. Chat over cocoa or coffee.
  9. Give a certificate for an afternoon of your time to be spent any way your senior desires.

In other words, “Simply being there can make your holidays more special,” says Hood.

She also notes that the holidays are a time when families may notice changes in way their loved ones live, such as a change in hygiene or eating habits, or cleanliness and order at home.

“After the holidays, we hear from many families who want to initiate conversations with elderly loved ones about their changing needs. United Hebrew’s eldercare experts can help with those conversations, and help explore care options for the future.”

For more information, call 914-632-2804, x1148, to speak with Maria Hood or email her at mhood@uhgc.org.