Engaging older adults in a COVID Holiday Season

Eight tips to make everyone’s holidays brighter

by Jane Dvorak

Growing restrictions and COVID-19 concerns are preventing loved ones from seeing older family and friends this holiday season. In the first few months of the pandemic, the number of older adults who reported feeling lonely or isolated doubled. While older adults may be forced to celebrate alone, that doesn’t mean they can’t feel the love of family and friends.

Depression can be a real concern. This is especially true during the holidays. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder can bring the onset of depression and further, adults who are isolated are at higher risk of depression. The safety and health of our older family members and friends don’t have to be compromised during the holidays as there are several ways to remain engaged. Here are eight tips to make everyone’s holidays brighter.

Regular phone calls

Take time to pick up the phone, yes, we have many technologies, but hearing one’s voice can close the gap for a loved one. Share fond holiday memories and encourage them to do the same. You will have a treasure trove of conversations together.

Video calls

With technology, the distance between loved ones is not as vast as it once was. Today we’re merely a quick “face time” away. These calls can take 10 minutes with a hello from a grandchild to longer conversations or sharing “cooking” time, or gift–wrapping, or playing games while your loved one participates too. There’s no end to the creative ways to create a memorable time together.

Care packages

Snacks, puzzles, riddles and mini-photo books can lighten up a day, especially for the person isolated from family and friends this winter. Homemade or not, the message will be clear that you “care.”

Notes & Cards

Everyone loves to receive mail even in our digital world. There’s something special about a handwritten note or a card. There’s joy in knowing the sender was thinking of you.

Recorded videos or audio

Tell stories, show off your dance moves or reminisce in the past. Today’s cell phones make a video quick and easy. You can plan it out or capture a silly moment to share, whichever the case, let your talents shine and bring joy to another.

Create and Open cards together

In a safely distanced visit or via a video phone call, open your holiday cards together. Read the messages and share in the updates. Keeping in touch helps keep the holidays lighter and doing it together helps pass the time quicker.


Yes, holiday carols can be a fun way to involve everyone from generation to generation. Pick a mix of music, sing together or listen as you virtually share time together.

Watch a holiday performance

There are many streaming concerts, movies and performances throughout the holiday season. Choose a traditional favorite or experience something new. Join in a call, phone or virtual, afterward to share your perspectives, favorite parts and more.

This season may differ from others, but the moments shared can have just as much joy. It’s the memories created that will last long after the pandemic is gone. Whatever or however you connect with your loved ones, make this holiday season one to remember.

NextFifty Initiative provides funding to organizations that empower older adults to lead active and healthy lives. For more information, visit www.Next50Initiative.org.

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