Tuesday 1 December 2015

20 Christmas activities for the Oldest Old

At Christmas time, the oldest and frailest people in a family, and in society, may need help to take part. I've put together some simple ideas for including these people in the celebrations. Most of these ideas should be suitable for people with dementia. Many should be suitable for visits to people in care homes.

Please note that the title is a bit misleading. Some very elderly people are cooking Christmas meals, organising events and helping others. These ideas are not directed at them but at the frailest people who may lack the ability to initiate activities. 

This is a general list. Please use common sense. Some of these ideas will not be suitable for people who have very poor sight and others not suitable for people with poor hearing. My hope is to give you some ideas and hopefully, you will be inspired to think of others. Please do involve your children. Older people often love to see children but remember that visits don't have to be long!

  • Advent calendar. Most people love chocolate!

  • Christmas plant. Do check that someone is going to care for this.

  • Photograph album. Often people with dementia can remember the distant past and may enjoy old photos. Ensure that their reading glasses are available.

  • Go for a drive. Obviously, it is important to check that the person concerned is well enough to get into a car. If they have a blue disabled badge, do take this as it makes parking easier. 

  • Play a simple game such as Snap. 

  • Go to a carol service or listen to Nine Lessons and Carols. Check that they will be able to hear first. If going to a service with someone with a hearing aid, check that it is on the T setting to use an induction loop. Allow much more time than you would usually consider necessary, especially if using a wheelchair.

  • Bible readings. Speak slowly and clearly. 

  • Enjoy a poem together. Susan Jeffers' illustration of Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods would be an excellent choice and one that we plan to use over this time.

  • Look at a book about Christmas past. John Goodall's Edwardian Christmas is a beautiful book with plenty of detail for discussion.

  • Help with present wrapping.

  • Sit around an open fire and enjoy a cup of tea together. Be careful not to leave anyone who may fall alone in a room with an open fire nor let them sit where they could fall into the fire if they stood and were unsteady.

  • Help the Grandchildren, or other children, make and give home made cards.

  • Watch the tree being decorated.

  • Bring small fir boughs to decorate the older person's room.

  • Bring out the old family china and linen for the table or a tray.

  • Stir the Christmas pudding together.

  • Enjoy mince pies together.

  • Write a letter to an older person that it might be difficult for you to go to see.

  • Show photographs of recent trips or your children on a phone. The frailest older people will not be able to operate the phone but often appreciate seeing the pictures.

  • If possible, arrange for them to see other friends. If not, do they need help writing and posting Christmas cards?

I do hope these ideas are helpful. Please add more in the comments. 

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  1. Thank you - this is very useful for helping our neighbour. I recently saw a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle which had large pieces and a historical countryside scene which I thought would be a lovely present for someone elderly who couldn't cope with tiny jigsaw pieces. I've also heard that jigsaws can be helpful for people suffering from memory loss, and definitely a lovely activity for the elderly to do alongside children.

    1. Hi Helen, I like that idea and it would be a lovely collaborative activity for children and older people.

  2. SarahElisabeth, these are good ideas! I added a link to an article I wrote a few years ago encouraging Christians who celebrate Christmas to see with compassion and reach out to those who are often overlooked. It fit very nicely. :-) Thanks!