It Must Be Joyful December!
Seniors and Seasonal Stress

Christmas trees, mistletoe, Hanukkah, lighting the Menorah, Santa Claus, gift giving, holiday family dinners…it must be December and the coming holiday season—what happy fun, what excitement! But, the holiday season is not always so jolly, so cheerful and so full of high spirits for everyone!

In fact, the holiday season can be quite stressful. Whether it’s finding the right gifts on time or wondering if you can afford them, this season is full of triggers for anxiety for seniors. I overheard an older family friend, Helen, in East Gwillimbury, explain to her Granddaughter, Rachael:’’I’m not used to all kinds of food and activity so it can throw me for a bit of a loop. I’m just not as adaptable as I once was – you find this as you get older.” It seems that holiday stress and pressure can actually take some of the fun out of the season.

Stress and anxiety may actually be a regular occurrence for many families during the holiday season. But, it’s important to consider that even our aging loved ones, who have less responsibilities, can be overwhelmed by the hype and hustle of the holiday season. Rachael and her family, given Helen’s admission, now realize that Helen is “not as adaptable” to seasonal activities as she experienced in her younger years.

An additional burden for seniors is that they often feel depression at this time of year as they revisit old memories and mourn the losses and change of times.

Nancy Graham, the deputy editor of AARP: The Magazine, suggested that seniors need special attention: “It’s a festive time of year, but it’s also very stressful — especially for older people. It can be very overwhelming with too much shopping, too much food, too many parties and too many memories. My Mom was saying how the worst part of this time of year is that she has to cross a couple of names off her Christmas card list.”