It’s The Haa, Haa–py–est Time of The Year (?)
The words and melody from the radio filled my car. It looked like a winter wonderland; and kids, amid shrieks of laughter and merriment, were sledding down the hill at the high school on anything large enough to sit on. I’m certain school vacation is adding to this happiest of times.
Then my counseling background kicks in. I remember that holidays aren’t the happiest of times for everyone, but connections with others do lift spirits. I phone a few aging friends with the usual “hello” and “how are you.” (Counselors are trained to ask objective questions–not leading ones.)
I do think this is the haa, haa-py-est time of the year for young and young adult children– who have none of the responsibilities of adulthood; and–discounting the stress that shopping entails– for newly-marrieds who are looking forward; and for young couples with children who still believe in Santa.
It’s a happy time when older and younger family members can be together, feeling the warmth, sharing, and reminiscing about the past. And the excitement of the children and grandchildren provides a background of energy and optimism.
On the other hand elders say–
“The holidays are a time when our mind drifts back to past Christmases that were happy times. It’s a sentimental time,” recalls one 80-year-old widow. “It’s a wonderful time when families can get together, yet a lot of people are completely alone. As people get older, they have experienced losses. Especially for those who’ve lost their mates, other people’s happiness can be a reminder of the losses we’ve incurred. We’re just more vulnerable to that kind of thing when we get older.”
“Unless there’s a lot of family around and a lot going on, it’s not the happiest time of the year. It’s depressing,” says a 70-year old man.
There’s agreement that it takes effort for older people to find this a happy time. “It doesn’t just happen,” says one.
“It’s what you make of it when you’re older,” says another. “If you make the effort to be with people it’s good, but it can be exhausting. We may continue to decorate and continue to write the notes on the Christmas cards because we want our home to look festive and we like to get letters back after we write the notes. But we need to trim down and trim back so we aren’t too tired to enjoy.”
Next question: How can younger people help? Answers: