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While most of us are out shopping for gifts and planning our holiday dinners, those who reside in elderly homes often have limited options to enjoy the festive season.

Research shows that loneliness among the elderly has serious consequences on their health and that it is important to focus on developing interventions that alleviate residents’ loneliness. A few small gestures can go a long way and with some effort, we can all make a meaningful difference in some persons’ lives this holiday season.

  • Different homes have different needs. It’s wise to call and ask the staff about what kind of help they require and ask about any rules or restrictions. This can help to ensure that what you do has a lasting impact. They might ask for gift donations or ask you to visit at certain times during the day to spend time with particular residents.
  • Join forces. Ask your colleagues, friends or family to join you in your venture. You can plan a trip to a home and give out warm drinks, buy simple gifts or even team up to organise a small event in a local nursing home. Carve out a few hours specifically for this and the time dedicated will most definitely be appreciated.
  • Involve your children. Whether it’s a family or a school outing, getting children involved is a great way to boost morale among elderly people. It is also a great opportunity to teach younger generations about respecting and including the elderly in our society. Involve the kids by making crafts with them or creating handmade cards with messages they can read out to residents.
  • Share your talents! Liaise with the activities coordinator and see whether you can offer your services free of charge as a surprise for the residents. This can range from performing a song or dance, organising a cooking session, helping out with a craft, or even offering free haircuts to residents. Whatever you choose to do, your efforts won’t go unnoticed among residents.
  • Don’t forget the staff. Nurses, nursing aides and carers, among others, are often faced with challenging situations which can take a toll on their mental and physical wellbeing. Handing out fresh flowers, warm drinks or taking some treats may help lift a staff member’s spirits during a tough day.

Keep in mind that although these acts may seem simple, they can mean a great deal to individuals who feel cut off from society throughout the year. Be open-minded and remember that elderly people have a lot to offer and what might seem as a one-time visit might turn into a friendship beyond the holiday season.

Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.