The After-Christmas Let-Down
What happens after an event takes place that we’ve been…
anticipating–hearing about well in advance? We are left with the emotional residue–wonderful or not so wonderful, depending. No matter the event, it happens (present tense). Then it’s over. Ended. Done.
The day (and week) after Christmas. The media’s holiday focus on family togetherness, generating warm fuzzy feelings and a celebratory spirit aimed at making people feel good, ends. The media then calls attention to the past, generating pleasant or unpleasant memories; we are encouraged to improve ourselves by making New Year’s resolutions. Isn’t it easy to see how the end of the holidays can intensify feelings of emptiness and of loneliness in seniors living alone? And the fact that it’s winter, and it’s colder, and it gets dark earlier doesn’t help.
Can adult children elevate that let down feeling? “Yes,” according to our senior advisors, who offer 4 suggestions (I’ve added the 5th and 6th):
- “Stay in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten or feeling abandoned.”
- “Make a phone call; it doesn’t need to be a visit. I had a wonderful phone call from a far-away living relative recently. You know, older people prefer phone calls instead of emails.”
- “Take older people out to something, but take them to something that is rather quiet, that isn’t too taxing an experience.”
- ”Make a plan for the future so there’s something to look forward to.” Sr. Advisor, R, calls that “a carrot,” and says it keeps her going.
- Take aging friends and/or parents on a short drive to see holiday decorations at night. For older people who no longer drive at night this needn’t be a marathon, but it will be a real treat. City streets highlight store windows (top photo). A short drive can produce long-lasting memories. Check out: http://helpparentsagewell.com/2011/12/20/help-parents-age-well-with-a-night-drive-to-see-the-holiday-lights/ to view decorated neighborhood homes.
- When old people receive new technology (eg. an iPad) that fosters keeping in touch, contact them often through that technology at the beginning. Older people need the practice (often again and again) in order to feel comfortable with new technology. Also you will quickly discover if they need more instruction.
I remember the advice given me by a priest I interviewed for my divorce book years ago. He emphasized the importance of touching base on a regular basis with people we care about– whether or not they are facing challenges or need us in their lives.
To this end, he wrote on his calendar at regular intervals “phone so-and-so,” putting in names and telephone numbers. He said it was the only way he could be certain of regularly continuing the connections.
It’s rarely lack of caring that prevents us from doing something additional on a regular basis. More likely we just get busy and forget. So…I guess we need to take out our new calendars or whatever technology we use; put in a few names and numbers of our older, living-alone friends and family; then make at least one phone call before New Year’s Eve.
Note: I’m posting a day early so there’s more time to make the phone call before New Year’s Eve. Happy 2013 everyone–to you and all the older members in your family.
- 250,000 over-75s spent Christmas Day alone (mirror.co.uk)