woman's hands holding a small gift

Sometimes the holidays can be lonely and difficult for older adults, especially for those who live alone. The things that most of us love about the holidays—traditions, gift-giving, spending time with loved ones—are also the things that are hardest to face alone, especially without a partner or family member who has passed away.  It’s easy to lose a desire to celebrate, when you can’t celebrate the way you used to. And the thought of spending the holidays alone is enough to make anyone a little blue.

A lack of the usual holiday decorations inside or outside the home, a reluctance to attend holiday get-togethers, or a refusal to celebrate may be a sign that a loved one is struggling with holiday depression. Hopefully, the holidays are a time when we make an extra effort to watch out for our loved ones, neighbors and friends.  Spend time together, talk about the good memories of the past and share family traditions.

The National Care Planning Council gives some great suggestions for spending time together during the holidays:

  • Bake holiday treats: Share a traditional family recipe or try something new. Go together to give plates of goodies to friends and neighbors.
  • Attend church activities: If you belong to a church congregation, there are always plenty of opportunities to participate during the holidays, such as parties, dinners, and charity or volunteer work.
  • Volunteer: Find a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, charity event, or any place looking for volunteers during the holiday season (or any time of the year).
  • Go shopping: It’s much more fun and less overwhelming when done with a friend.
  • Make seasonal crafts and gifts: Make gifts to give away. Make ornaments for the tree. Create homemade cards.
  • Take a vacation: Travel to visit friends or relatives—or just to visit a new place. If you are unable to travel, visit tourist sites in your town and see them through the eyes of a visitor.
  • Go caroling: Sing around your neighborhood or sing for patients in a hospital or nursing home.
  • Decorate the house and wrap presents: It can be overwhelming to pull out all of the decorations and put them up around the house. Involve children in the process, make it fun and festive. Hang Christmas lights around the house. Enjoy gift-wrapping together.
  • Attend holiday parties: Invite your loved one to attend holiday parties with you.
  • Plan an event: If you are having a party at your home or work, involve your loved one in helping to plan the food, decorations, invitations, activities, etc.
  • Get some fresh air and sunshine: Exposure to sunlight can help improve anyone’s mood. Even in cold weather, make sure you have plenty of sunlight in your life. If weather permits, go for a walk or spend some time outdoors.

Watch out for loved ones, neighbors and friends who may be a little blue during the holiday season. Holiday depression can strike anyone at any age, especially when someone is going through hard times and missing loved ones. Pick an item from the list each day and spend time together during the holidays. The key is to be there for each other.