Richard’s Almanac: Supporting seniors during the holidays

PETER REICH PHOTO | A Christmas beacon for sailors.

PETER REICH PHOTO | A Christmas beacon for sailors.

In last week’s column I talked about the much longer holiday season we have now compared to say a half-century ago. We are subjected to holiday music, decorations and spirit for the whole month of December. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For some folks this longer season elevates their spirits for a longer time. But for others, it just makes holiday depression last that much longer. And seniors seem to be most vulnerable to this depression.

Holiday depression for some seniors can stem from memories of long ago when all aspects of daily life had a glow of perfection.

Children were young and still believed in Santa. Watching them open gifts on Christmas morning, having the house filled with the aromas of great things to eat and wood burning in the fireplace created a coziness that exists now only in our minds.

If we’re fortunate enough, we can capture some of those good feelings with our grandchildren.

However, for others, situations have changed. Kids grew up and moved away. Perhaps a spouse died along the way or divorce happened. Any number of situations could have resulted in an individual facing a solo holiday season.

So if you know a senior who’s alone this season, stop by and visit. Bring a gift and spend some time.

And if you think you have something to offer to a senior even when it’s not the holiday season, look into the Friendly Visitor Program I mentioned last week.

Its goal is to relieve loneliness and isolation as well as provide a personal connection to the community.

According to senior center director Laurie Fanelli, “All seniors are interviewed regarding their personal history and interests to facilitate a compatible match,” adding that it is the intent of the program to increase senior safety, health and nutrition and to slow the onset of dementia by improving health and cognition.

If you want to volunteer, you must commit to a six-month period of weekly one-to-two hour visits.

The visits might include: a walk, a meal out, reading aloud, going shopping or helping with light chores. These visits can develop symbiotic relationships that last a long time.