December is a magical time!!! Starting around Thanksgiving, cities and towns across the country transform themselves into a winter wonderland. Lights, trees, holiday decoration; parties and family gatherings; holiday greetings to friends and relatives. Some days, cards and letters outnumber the bills and every snowflake adds to the delight. It\’s a magical time of year!

Then comes January and, as if with a flick of a switch, the parties stop, the mail is once again just bills, the lights are turned off, and we go back to life as usual. I\’ve personally lobbied to everyone I can think of to keep the lights on the trees turned on – sadly to no avail!! (I do, however, keep icicle lights in my windows all year around!) This is a difficult time for a lot of people – the dreariness of the winter months and the sudden letdown after all the excitement. I know it\’s a huge letdown for me but at least I have work and all kinds of obligations to distract me. Sadly, it\’s a particularly difficult time for our aging loved ones – most of whom don\’t have work or obligations to go back to after the holidays.

Is there anything you can do to lessen the letdown? Yes!

Here are some ideas to transform your aging loved one\’s winter doldrums and deepen the (re)connections made over the holidays.

  • If they\’re feeling blue because they don\’t have anything to do – give them something! Ask them to write down or record their favorite holiday stories, childhood memories, favorite recipes, . . . . whatever. To get the ball rolling, ask them some specific questions about their siblings, their parents, grandparents, etc. If possible, at least initially, set aside some time to record the stories with them.
  • To extend the holiday spirit, why not print out all those pictures you took over the holidays and paste them onto note cards. That way you can share the pictures and they can continue to get “good” mail.
  • While you\’re at it, you might want to take pictures of you and your family members using the gift they gave you or what you bought with the money or gift card they sent. (My brother-in-law send me a link to the page of the catalogue showing the gift he bought with the gift certificate I sent him. I really enjoyed seeing it.)
  • Remember those homemade “gift certificates” for chores around your aging loved one\’s home I suggested in the December newsletter? Encourage them to start redeeming them in January – especially the ones for snow shoveling. Didn\’t give them any for snow shoveling? No problem! It could be a late holiday gift or for Boxing Day or “Just Because”. No snow shoveling? Then once-a-week housecleaning, etc. Remember – you don\’t have to be the one doing the shoveling or cleaning. Social interaction – no matter how brief – and the snow removed or the house cleaned is still worth it!
  • By the way, once you\’re back on the doctor\’s appointment rounds, remind them to use those gift certificates good for lunch or afternoon tea with you.
  • If your kids made pictures for their grandparents, encourage them to continue making them. Maybe they can make a monthly picture of their favorite activity that month. Or perhaps they can bake cookies and send them.
  • Just pick up the phone and call! The sooner after the holidays and the more often you call, the more interesting things you will have to talk about. Because you already started the conversation during the holidays, you will have more to say (takes 2 to have a conversation!) and the easier the conversations will be.

Whatever you and your family do, it doesn\’t have to be anything elaborate – just something to extend the holiday spirit and keep the connection going. Be creative. Have fun. And let the joy you give them be the joy it gives you, too!

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving® 2008 You can find information about register for “How To Be Your Own Generational Coach”, one-on-one Generational Coaching, AgeWiseLiving® seminars and free teleseminars, and to sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter at http://www.agewiseliving.com/ or by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country\’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University, where she created and teaches “Seniors Housing Management” at Cornell\’s School of Hotel Administration.

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.