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2020 has been a year of unpleasant realities, adjustments, and compromises. Yet it has also offered us opportunities to learn, to think about doing things differently, and to recenter our values. Many families will be looking forward to spending time together over the festive season and reconnecting with loved ones. However, there are a number of things to think about in our current ‘non-business-as-usual’ circumstances. Here are five to keep in mind.

5 ideas for a meaningful 2020 holiday season

1. Connection is crucial

Human beings are social creatures, and we are driven by a deep need for connection. 2020 has thrown us some curve-balls – restricting our interaction with others considerably for a good part of the year. When it comes to seniors, isolation and a lack of human interaction can have negative psychological and physical health effects. “It is well documented that isolation and loneliness among older people has a detrimental impact on overall health, and an increased risk of dementia, among other things,” says Barry Kaganson, CEO of Auria Senior Living, which develops and manages senior living communities in South Africa. “Older adults residing in senior living environments benefit from having access to a community. They benefit from having access to opportunities to socialize. They also benefit from having access to a number of other amenities which ensure a good quality of life,” says Kaganson.

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Technology in a time of COVID-19

Thankfully, technology has given families and friends options for staying in touch – making periods of lockdown and quarantine more bearable. Restrictions are being lifted and family members are allowed to see each other again. That said, it may be a useful time to reevaluate the living arrangements of senior family members. This may be done to support their changing health and physical needs. It may also be to ensure that they have access to family or community structures which could help mitigate the potential for isolation and its possible problems should we see another period of lockdown or restricted movement.

“While many families will be making the best plans they can to see each other, some will not be able to. This may be because of health concerns relating to COVID-19 or families being dispersed across provinces or countries. Having older members in a senior living community gives peace of mind to family members. They know their loved-ones will be well cared for and far from lonely, as they are able to socialize within a professionally managed and controlled environment providing a form of ‘safety bubble’,” says Kaganson.

2. Give the gift of love

The events of 2020 have given many people a renewed perspective on what is truly important in life. Physical possessions are not as high on the list as we like to place them in prosperous times. It is sobering to see how many people have lost jobs or incomes, have had to scale back on their lifestyles, or have had to make difficult choices. Budgets have shrunk and many people have had to stick to the essentials.

Gift giving in this context can take on a whole new meaning – and perhaps a more positive one. Experiences and shared memories are better than things. If one has the budget for gifting, then giving or sharing an experience can be an opportunity to do something thoughtful and meaningful. That said, in 2020, spending time together is a gift in itself.

“Even with COVID-19, we are enabling friends and loved ones to visit residents in our communities over the holiday season responsibly, as we know the importance of this time of year to so many,” says Kaganson.

3. Keep the long term in mind

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Given the challenges many people have faced during 2020, many people and families will have to keep budgets in mind for some time to come. Christmas gifts, New Year parties, and the like can quickly add up. For seniors, it is particularly important to look beyond the immediate festive season. Make sure that the budget is available for possible unforeseen events. “Whether these relate to health, moving home, or simply staying within a retirement budget, it is important to have a plan and stick to it,” says Kaganson.

4. Be sensible about health

It is important to remain cognisant of the fact that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. If your festive plans include seeing older people, take time to ensure that gatherings are kept within acceptable numbers.

5. Have a 2021 plan

We all want to hope for a better 2021 and for some kind of return to normal. However, COVID-19 is still with us and may yet be for some time. When it comes to planning your own life as a senior, or your family’s activities as a group that includes seniors, it will be useful to have a game plan in case we see another wave of infections and stricter lockdowns in the coming year.

“The safety and relative predictability of life in a well-managed senior living environment can offer peace of mind to older people and couples. Evidence of this can be seen in the significant spike in interest in people looking to move into senior living communities more recently,” says Kaganson.

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Guest Writer

This post has been curated by a Longevity Live editor for the website.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.