As the holiday season is upon us, we wanted to share some ideas and thoughts about the importance of connection especially among seniors during holiday periods and throughout the year.
Age UK estimates that 60% of elders do not expect to experience happiness over the holiday season. For many seniors, the season of festivities means loneliness and a continuation of a deep-rooted state of isolation. According to the Institute on Aging, with age, isolation becomes more prominent as social networks and support systems begin to diminish leaving seniors in distressing positions. From poverty to health concerns, mobility to shame, seniors face barriers that are often overlooked. A Statistics Canada report stated that more than one-fifth of seniors want to be involved in social activities, but often struggle to do so because of the various challenges they face. The National Seniors Council released an important report that begins the work of reflecting on and engaging individuals, organizations and entire communities in addressing social isolation.
In a recent CBC article, seniors commented that mobility challenges mean that they are no longer able to travel to be with families. Organizations such as Seniors Come Share Society are helping to build connections for seniors through simple efforts of companionship.
Building awareness for these issues is the first step in overcoming the isolation of seniors. A British department store, John Lewis, in partnership with Age UK, featured a short film on their website – the Man on the Moon as a way to bring attention to the loneliness felt by seniors and to encouraging sharing with others.
There are many ways for people to get involved in supporting seniors during the holidays. Community groups work together through the Be a Santa to a Senior program, across Canada, the US, and the UK to provide gifts and holiday greetings. Institutions such as Princeton University have introduced a Holiday Outreach Program to link departments and employees to events and opportunities that allow them to connect with seniors in the area. Community Christmas is another organization which provides a similar service by connecting seniors to community activities.
These are just a few ideas that we have come across. We encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas on fostering connectedness and companionship throughout the holidays and indeed throughout the New Year ahead.