If you’re panicked or stressed this holiday season about what to get all the loved ones in your family, and your budget won’t carry you as far as your heart goes, don’t panic. There’s a solution right at hand and your gift will be as prized as though they cost a fortune. It’s the gift of your time.
If you are gathering at your family home of your parents, grandparents or other senior family members, be prepared to spend time reminiscing with them. Talk about Christmases past when everyone was together. Get out the photo albums and revisit the pictures together. Let the younger generation hear the stories, even if they have before. One day when some aren’t there anymore, if your history and genealogy isn’t written down, it’s gone.
Another gift we can offer involves teens putting away phones and Apple watches while visiting. It might seem obvious, but there’s nothing more hurtful to a senior than seeing a child’s face buried in a movie or a phone, when they’re old enough to h-ave a conversation and be around the adults, and they never look up to see who they’re with or why. Spending time in the kitchen or the workshop with grandparents is priceless to both groups.
Hearing your name called, Nana or Papa, is so important. Hearing the “Dings” from each response on teen phones or watches reminds the senior they’re less important than the young person responding. Teaching your children to make eye contact, to speak clearly, and slowly enough, for a good chat helps your kids remember their family.
Finally, there is never a bad time to send a thank-you note. During the holidays our kids get many gifts and yet if they are to receive they must learn to show thanks. Good habits start early. People always appreciate a hand-written note the way they do a handmade gift!
At the holiday season we have so many area seniors in our community who need a little extra help this year. Whether or not they’re your relatives, you and your family can adopt those in need this year for a very small amount. The Council of Governments sponsors a tree especially for over 300 area seniors, each of whom will receive something special this year when you adopt them (anonymously). For less or more than $10 you can make a senior smile by knowing someone cared to remember them this holiday season. In their younger days they may have given time and gifts to many who grew up and just assumed they’d be okay in their older years. It’s easy to forget the gifts of kindness when you are young and busy. It’s only as we get older that we have a moment to reflect on where those seniors and mentors are living today, how they’re doing, if they need any extra or special assistance. Often, they do, but they don’t have living relatives they can call on. That’s when the local community organizations steps up and steps in to help.
There’s a great need to help senior citizens in our area, especially those without local family members to drop in on them and check up on them and see to whatever needs they might have. Particularly in cold weather, our seniors’ skin is thin and it loses a lot of moisture. How refreshing and comforting it is to have a jar of cold cream, or a nice pump bottle of soothing, moisturizing hand cream on hand. Also, pairs of new cotton socks keep our seniors’ feet warm even if our feet aren’t cold.
Time to visit with our seniors continues to be the most precious gift. If you see photo albums in your seniors’ homes, take the opportunity to ask them to look through them with you. Just seeing pictures for the first time or the 23rd time can be an adventure. Often, seeing a particular favorite picture from long ago will trigger a happy memory and even a story that you might have not have ever heard. Write those stories down, or make a voice record on your phone with your senior telling the story.
Imagine how much fun it would be to hear the voice or see the face of a person who was your great-great-great-grandmother. You might see family facial similarities that you never expected. I remember one day a friend had found a copy of a handwritten letter that their great-great-great grandfather had written about all of his sons and daughters, describing each one by name. There were such small facts about them yet no one ever knew and just that one letter unlocked so many stories. It was the beginning of conversations that lasted for months. One family member became the historian and made notes of all the stories. Small facts can become priceless.
You may have encountered a point in one of your senior’s lives where they may tell the same three or four stories over and over again. You think you know them by heart, but do you really? I thought I’d never forget some of the stories my grandmother told me but in fact, I had long forgotten some. Fortunately, my mother remembered them and now I’ve got them recorded, so that one day Rowen can hear them too. He will learn more about the family he came from and how much like his ancestors he is.
Music is one final means of connecting with seniors. When memories begin to fade and seniors get frustrated because they can’t seem to recall a fact from an hour ago, when they hear music they have loved all their lives, they seem to relax and that helps their memories flow again. Their long-term memories are almost perfect, even when the short-term memories begin to cause some challenges. Ask your seniors to tell you some of their all-time favorite songs and be certain to write them down. They also are a part of the history of your seniors’ lives and love.
The things you do today to preserve memories will become gifts to you and your entire family tomorrow. The gift of time is the most precious of all. Christmas and the spirit of giving can last a full 365 days a year. Enjoy your time caring and sharing with your families this holiday season. On behalf of Chelsea, Rowen, and Lorene, we wish you a Merry Christmas!
Cody D. Jones ‘02
Owner & Community Member