Help Parents Age Well With a Drive in the Dark–After Christmas

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Christmas decorations make streets look festive, homes look welcoming. Especially at night, they transform the ordinary into something uplifting and magical. In a world of uncertainty and unrest, the colors and twinkling of the holiday lights on homes seem–in a way– protective, signaling all is well within.  And so it was comfortable for me to take a drive around my town last night to view the holiday lights. 

After a wonderful Christmas eve party that included many little ones, representing the 3rd and 4th generations of a 96-year-old and his 87-year-old wife, I decided to extend the festive feeling by taking a detour on the way home to see lighted Christmas decorations on streets I rarely travel.

While the decorations are amateur, compared to the extravaganza we’ve seen in the Phoenix, Arizona area, they showcase the hard work and commitment of families to enhance their homes, yards, and neighborhood–a laudable goal and certainly appreciated.

As I climbed out of my car into the black, frigid night to snap these pictures (wearing non-sensible shoes), I could glimpse party-goers within, hear dogs barking to signal a stranger approaching, and realize some home owners had turned in for the night but left their colored lights glowing warmly in the yard.

Standing outside on the edge of their frozen property, I wondered if anyone realized the pleasure their displays provide. I wondered how many of us drive around to look at the lights; then wondered do we take our spouses and our children to enjoy the lights?  Do we ever think of taking an aging parent, relative, or friend?

I’m sharing some of last night’s pictures here. Perhaps you’ll be inspired as I am–to take a senior out for a drive after dark–before the year ends and the decorations come down.

Many seniors don’t drive at night. They often don’t even get out at night. Here’a an opportunity for a change of everyday scenery that adds interest to their lives, fills the after-Christmas void, and once again contributes to helping parents, grandparents, and those we care about age well.

The Day After Christmas

Saturday, December 26, 2009
The Day After Christmas–also see 2010 update: The After-Christmas Let-Down

What happens after an event that we’ve been anticipating–hearing about well in advance–takes place? No matter the event, it happens (present tense). Then it’s over. Ended. Done. And we are left with the emotional residue–wonderful or not so wonderful, depending.

When it’s something we’ve been dreading, it’s no doubt an emotional relief to have it over. When it’s something we’ve looked forward to, and it meets or exceeds our expectations, we may be filled with happiness and wish it could last. But since it can’t, we can feel sad, or it’s a “let down.”

The day after Christmas suggests such an ending and it’s not uncommon for people who enjoy the festivities to have an emotional response. When aging parents have busy lives the holidays don’t necessarily fill a void, rather they are a welcome addition to an already busy schedule. When parents live alone, however, and don’t have a busy life, the void left when the holidays end can intensify feelings of emptiness and of being alone. And the fact that winter weather sets in and it gets dark earlier doesn’t help.

Can adult children inflate that let down feeling? Yes. First, refer to this past Tuesday’s post and reread the three suggestions. Next, use your 2010 technology/calendar to ensure the three suggestions aren’t forgotten.

I am remembering the advice given to me by a priest interviewed for my divorce book years ago. He talked about the importance of touching base on a regular basis with people we care about when they face challenges or need us in their lives. To this end, he wrote on his calendar at regular intervals–daily, twice weekly, weekly, monthly etc. etc.–“phone so-and-so,” putting their telephone numbers next to their names. He said it was the only way he could be certain of regularly continuing the connection. That advice turned out to be helpful for me at certain times with my counselees and their parents. It’s rarely lack of interest that prevents us from doing something additional on a regular basis. More likely we just get busy and forget.

So once again I guess we need to be thinking about picking up the phone–after we take out our 2010 calendar or whatever technology we use and write in a few names and numbers of our older, living alone friends and possibly even our parents.
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For an additional idea that adds upbeat short-or-long-as-you-want-to-make-it stimulation for older people before the New Year begins click the link above.