Skip to main content

Holiday Memories


As the winter holiday season begins again, family members and friends of aging people feel the desire to share the good times with their older loved ones, ensuring they are included, given specially chosen gifts, visited by little children, asked for recipes from
long ago and, in general, made a fuss over.

In return, families and friends hope for smiles and participation, for gratitude and the sense they have made a revered senior’s holiday a happy one.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem to turn out that way.

Families report that no matter how much effort they make to visit more often, to include the grandparents in as many events as possible, to do and to be present with them in every sense, they observe that the older folks just do not show any signs of contentment, that anxiety and sadness permeate every meeting and that, often, a parent will say “I never see anyone,” “no one comes to visit.”

It is devastating, frustrating and frightening when families and friends hear these words and when seniors appear detached, withdrawn or isolated.

Thankfully, this does not occur frequently, but it certainly does exist for many well-meaning, caring and loving families. And it is hard for them to either understand or accept the words and behaviours they are dealing with.

Aging can result in many changes and although much is known about the physiological causes, there are often hidden reasons for these surprising responses to previously enjoyed celebrations.

— simply feeling overwhelmed by the extra energy attached to family gatherings

— feeling physically tired from extra outings, meeting new people, unfamiliar settings

— different food, treats, sound and colours

— a longing for older, simpler times

— increasing memory loss for names and faces

— and, so importantly, the realization that the older person may well be reacting to early child hood memories, experiences, traumas or joy, created and imprinted in the first decade or two but put aside once their new relationships, family and traditions formed.

Written by Anne Duggan, Invited Advisor to Bell Alliance

Subscribe to our newsletter for advice, tips, and the latest news.