At this time of year, many of us gather with family and friends to to take part in holiday traditions. Although it is a joyful time, it can also be difficult one for many older adults, especially those who have recently lost loved ones and those who are no longer able to travel easily.

Even if they don’t ask for your help, your older family members will appreciate the extra work you do to make their holidays special and enjoyable. This year, think about how you can:

Honor traditions while creating new rituals

The holidays are a time filled with tradition, from food to music to family activities. When these must be altered for one reason or another, it can create a feeling of loss. Similarly, a time-honored family tradition can cause grief if it is the first year that a loved one who has passed away isn’t there to participate.

Instead of suppressing these emotions or ignoring the difficulties of keeping up traditions as times change, talk as a family about how you can incorporate aspects of beloved customs while adjusting them to fit your family’s current situation. 

Make your loved ones feel safe and comfortable 

When planning for family get-togethers, it can be a challenge to accommodate everyone’s needs. Remember that since older family members can tire easily, they may need to limit how much they move around and be strategic in choosing the activities they join in on. Be patient and let them participate at a pace that feels comfortable for them. As you prepare your space, it is also important to make sure your home is free of tripping hazards and that your older loved ones have a quiet area to relax in if they become fatigued or distressed. 

Your loved ones’ needs will vary depending on their situation. Ask your family members what would make them most comfortable rather than making decisions for them. 

Stay connected 

If your older loved ones are not able to be with you during the holidays, there are still ways to remain connected and celebrate this joyous time together. Try upgrading an old-fashioned phone call by using Skype, FaceTime or another video chat service to connect face-to-face with family members who aren’t able to attend holiday gatherings. Share photos online, or try creating an email group or even a family blog as a foundation for keeping in touch and sharing stories.

Think about other ways that you can make your older family member’s season more festive, as well, such as sending a basket of holiday treats or other contributions to a holiday meal. Even if you cannot be there to cook with your older loved ones, sending a batch of the cookies you love to make together can bring a smile to their faces. 

Adapt activities so that all can enjoy

If your loved one has hearing loss, talk with them about what would help them participate in conversations, whether that’s less background noise or a different seating arrangement. If there are dietary restrictions, make sure that family members and friends who are contributing food are aware ahead of time, and that your older loved one can easily identify what they can and cannot eat.

Suggest activities that all family members can enjoy, young and old alike. If your family likes to play card or board games, include your older loved ones in the act of choosing the game. Also consider including them in cooking or decorating as their abilities allow, so they feel they are making a contribution to the celebration.

Your family may also enjoy relaxing and watching a movie together at this time of year. Here are our suggestions for places to find classic movies online, ways to access movies and concerts without leaving home and 30 newer movies that older adults can enjoy.