The holiday season can pose particular challenges for some older adults.

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The Holiday Season Can Increase Isolation and Feelings of Loneliness for Many Aging Adults; Cedars-Sinai Geriatricians Share Five Ways to Bring Them More Cheer This Time of Year

The holiday season encapsulates both the pinnacle of joyous moments and the depths of isolation. While the festivities, cheerful connections, and family reunions bring comfort and happiness, they can also magnify feelings of seclusion and solitude, especially among older adults.

Age-related challenges like hearing loss, cognitive decline, diminished driving abilities, and other functional changes often deter older adults from participating in holiday gatherings, amplifying feelings of loneliness and distress.

Dr. Mays, an assistant professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, explained, “Many patients refrain from social outings due to communication difficulties. They find large gatherings or dining out stressful when struggling to hear or follow conversations, preferring isolation to avoid feeling uncomfortable or anxious.”

Furthermore, experiences of grief and loss significantly contribute to social isolation among the elderly during this time.

Dr. Mays emphasized, “For those who have encountered loss or lack the desired community, this season can be exceptionally tough. Loneliness stems from lacking desired social connections.”

Cedars-Sinai geriatricians routinely address grief and loss during patient visits, offering referrals to social workers or grief support groups.

Ways to Support Older People During the Holiday Season

  1. Initiate: Check in more often with older family members and friends and gently ask how they are doing and offer support. A phone call can go a long way in
    nurturing connectedness.
  2. Invite: Consider inviting them to smaller, more intimate gatherings if functional limitations are an issue. Welcome them without pressuring them to fit into your plans.
  3. Listen: Actively listen when they want to talk, even if it is a difficult conversation.
  4. Accommodate: Discuss an activity or simple pleasure they would enjoy rather than insisting they participate in planned events.
  5. Grieve: Loss is felt deeply during the holidays. Pay attention and let them know you are there to listen. Meet them where they are and do not force activities they may be anxious about.

Source: Cedars Sinai