Hearing the time-honored song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” may elicit more tears than laughter this year as the pandemic has many families staying put and not traveling in order to protect themselves and their loved ones – especially us seniors. Friends, too, are passing on holiday parties and other social gatherings.
Less important, though no less real, is the challenge of holiday shopping this season. Jay and I are already missing the fun of wandering around the Christmas and Hanukkah aisles of stores and enjoying the sight of holiday colors, decorations and other festive items and gift ideas. Not to mention the get-togethers with friends old and new.
Can we still celebrate this holiday season and make it warm and meaningful? Can we still feel connected with those we love in this time of social immobility and distancing?
We think so. Actually, we know so.
We described earlier this year how my 94-year-old mother was touched and delighted by our Zoom Mother’s Day visit. Here are some more ideas about using technology to make the best we can of the coming holidays while keeping ourselves and others healthy and safe. Consider giving any of these gifts of your time, energy and creativity. Or put them on your own wish list and email them to the younger humans in your family!
- In our work we meet so many seniors who have smartphones but who have never experienced a video phone call with friends or family. Arrange to help a parent, grandparent or neighbor place or receive a video call with someone they care about. It’s a gift that never fails to delight.
- Have long-distance friends or relatives coordinate to make a video holiday card for a senior who cannot be with them. Say hello, sing, do whatever you know will bring joy, laughter or a smile. Then send the video – or a link to the video – in an email.
- Order a coffee mug with a photo of the new grandbaby on it. Or a personalized 2021 calendar using 12 pictures that hold meaning – like favorite flowers or old family photos. The possibilities are endless. Reputable websites like Shutterfly and Vistaprint provide these services. Or if you’re tech savvy and a little ambitious you can make it a DIY project.
- Many older adults are curious about social media and want to follow what’s going on in their young people’s lives, but they are understandably and appropriately concerned about privacy and online security. Give an hour or two of your time to help a senior set up a social media account and customize the privacy settings.
- Put together a list of websites your favorite senior might be interested in exploring. Oftentimes seniors avoid the internet because they are unsure about how to do an online search, or because they are concerned about visiting unsafe or poor-quality websites. But today there are organizations and companies with longstanding reputations that have rich, enjoyable websites – for example, National Geographic, Sunset Magazine, and Readers Digest. Most of these sites have some free content. And an online subscription to access all of the site’s contents can be another great gift idea.
- Does the senior in your life enjoy the old comedies? Create a playlist on YouTube with clips from some of the old classics like Johnny Carson (remember Ed Ames teaching Johnny how to throw a tomahawk?), Carol Burnett (who could forget that “Gone with the Wind” or the dentist scene with Tim Conway), Bob Newhart and many more. And be sure to include outtakes and bloopers from some of the old sitcoms.
- Or create a playlist of your parents’/grandparents’ favorite music. Golden rock ‘n roll, classical and all genres of music can be found and assembled into a single playlist. Better yet, a great gift idea during this staying-at-home-all-the-time season is a subscription to a streaming music service. An ad-free subscription to Pandora, Spotify, Apple or other streaming service allows you to create music channels for whoever your favorite artists or whatever your favorite type of music may be.
As challenging and sad as this holiday season will be for so many, there are still some good ways to brighten things up. We encourage you to embrace what technology has to offer us this year – it might just turn out to be your most creative and rewarding holiday season yet.
To our friends, clients and students and readers of our column, may your holidays be full of warmth, hope, love and laughter.