With Christmas and Kwanzaa just a few days away, it’s natural for seniors to start reminiscing about family get-togethers of years gone by, and maybe missing loved ones or pets that are no longer here. But why dwell on memories of the past when there are so many potential new Christmas memories still to be made this year and in years to come.
Of course, most folks will be up to their antlers in last-minute shopping, cleaning and holiday hullabaloo. So before the big gathering of guests, we thought it might help to propose a list of activities that will allow seniors to be involved in the action, rather than relegated to an easy chair looking at a bunch of Christmas cards from people they don’t even know. Planning a few activities in advance can be a lot more effective than trying to do something on the spur of the moment.
Every Christmas gathering needs some Christmas music. So why not take turns playing carols on your favorite instruments. After rehearsing a few times, you could be ready to play them all together as a band. If your family doesn’t play musical instruments, then get your hands on a karaoke machine and just sing. And don’t forget to shake some jingle bells for percussion.
Kids love to read and hear stories at Christmas almost as much as their grandparents love to read them. So gather up some books about Rudolph, the Grinch, Frosty or The Night Before Christmas from the library or purchase them at your favorite book store, that is, if the kids don’t have them at home already. Heat up some hot cocoa, find a comfy chair by the fire, and take turns reading. If you have time to make a production out of it, divide up the characters and act out the story like a play. A little imagination goes a long way at Christmas.
Most grandmothers and senior women know their way around the kitchen and can whip up a batch of yummy Christmas cookies in a flash. But Christmas is supposed to be about togetherness, so get the grandkids involved in the baking and icing. Better yet, why not build a gingerbread house together. You can tailor the process to suit your participants, as well as your desired lifespan for the house. In other words, do you want to admire the results and preserve it through the holidays? Or do you want to bash it down like the Big Bad Wolf and devour the building materials?
If you’re ambitious, you can bake the gingerbread from scratch and follow a recipe with a pattern. Or cut to the chase using graham crackers and a kit that can be found at most department stores. Either way, frosting makes a wonderfully edible glue. And of course, the kids of all ages will have a scrumptious time decorating the roof, door, windows and yard with peppermints, candy canes, gumdrops and other assorted sweets.
If all that gingerbread decorating leaves you exhausted, microwave some popcorn, grab some extra pillows and warm blankets and snuggle up to watch a holiday double feature together. Convince the kiddies to watch a classic like, “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” first. Then you can catch a few winks while the kids watch what they want. If you only have time for one movie, the perfect compromise is “A Christmas Story,” a 1983 gem that children love as much as adults.
Sooner or later, everyone will want to get out of the house and search for Christmas magic elsewhere. It may be too late to get tickets to a holiday play or musical performance, but how about going for a sleigh ride (if you’re near snow), a hay ride (if you’re not) or a horse-drawn carriage ride. This is a great activity to do before having dinner together and heading out to view your city’s most dazzling Christmas light displays.
Quilting is a great family activity and a perfect way to create a treasured family heirloom that can be passed down from generation to generation. You can pick out a festive Christmassy fabric or let the family choose something at the store. Another option to give your quilt a unique personal touch is to have everyone contribute an old favorite t-shirt that they’ve outgrown or no longer wear.
While the family is all together, have them dress up in their nicest Christmas dresses and sweaters (not the ugly ones) and have a portrait taken. You might even consider having it taken by a professional photographer in the studio and make it your gift to the family. But if you can’t find someone who’s willing to shoot that close to Christmas, a competent next-door neighbor will do.
With so much activity going on around the house, you can’t let Grandpa sneak off to take a nap or watch football. He’ll be needed to play cards or board games, maybe even teach the kids how to play chess or cribbage. Plus, if you can’t get Gramps to dress up as Santa Claus and fill the stockings, he should at least gobble up the goodies and drink the glass of milk that the kids leave out for the “real” Santa on Christmas Eve.
Whatever you do, we hope this Christmas is filled with joy and lots of heartfelt memories for you and your family. At least enough to last you until next Christmas.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living