Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How to remember seniors this holiday season

December 5, 2022

How to remember seniors this holiday season

During the holiday season, Heart2Heart usually sees an uptick in volunteer involvement from churches and groups who want to share Christmas caroling or holiday activities with the seniors. 

It warms my heart to see people who have never visited a care center bring the festivities of the season to seniors who are lonely. We welcome new faces, and the holidays are a great opportunity to introduce the blessings of ministering to seniors to more people. 

In fact, one of the first times I ever walked into a nursing home was for just that: to play Christmas music with my fellow church members. 

Why seniors end up lonely

One of the reasons we get volunteers during the holidays is because people know that residents of nursing homes — or care centers as we call them — are lonely. One of statistics we constantly reference at Heart2Heart is the fact that 60% of care centers residents don’t receive a single visit from family or friends. 

When people hear that, they’re shocked. Their immediate thought is: Where’s the family? 

So to those who might be visiting seniors at a care center for the first time, I wanted to shed light on that. There are so many reasons and scenarios why a person can end up lonely. 

For example, take a person who had no siblings, and maybe their parents didn’t have many siblings either. They’ve outlived their parents. They never got married and never had any kids. 

Now they’re living without family in a care center. Many of their longtime friends have passed on or also don’t have the independence to come visit. 

That senior will be lonely during holidays. 

Imagine a woman who’s lost her husband. Or a man who is estranged from his family, maybe due to his own mistakes. But maybe not.  

Those seniors will be alone this Christmas. 

In South Florida, we also have a large immigrant population. Many people who came to the United States for various reasons don’t have family to rely on in their later years. 

Those folks will be missing the celebrations of their home countries, all alone. 

I know from my own tendencies that there is a very real temptation to write off responsibility for the lonely people in our community. We think: “Well, their family should visit. That person’s family should prioritize spending time with them.”

Often, a lonely senior just doesn’t have family. It’s not always the case. But frequently, it is. 

Ways to bring holiday joy to seniors 

Close your eyes for maybe 30 seconds and imagine yourself older. Think through the possibilities of where you might live and what that situation might be. 

I think we can all say that we would want the freedom to do the things we want to do, when we want to do them. We would want the ability to choose what to eat and where we want to go. I think we all hope that we’ll have people around to help us make that possible. 

None of us want to think that maybe one day, we’ll wake up and realize that we’re all alone. 

This holiday, I challenge you to intentionally impact one senior. It doesn’t have to be someone in a nursing home. It could be your next door neighbor or someone in your family. 

And how you impact them doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. Just saying, “Hey, I’m here for you” can make the difference between a lonely day and a pleasant one. 

You can send a senior a holiday card or a small gift to help them feel seen and appreciated. 

An easy way to connect is ask a senior to tell you a story about their lives when they were younger. In a previous blog, I listed some questions to help people worried about awkward silences. 

Actually, I have a great question to ask. Ask them, “If you had to write a wish list, what would be on it?”

I think you’ll learn a lot about how they think about life right now. And their answer may surprise you. 

Our founder, Sean Stepelton, recently discovered that what his favorite senior really wanted was a good steak. So he brought him a steak during one of his weekly visits. 

Maybe the senior in your life just wants to go outdoors for a walk or experience something new. Their wish list could open up great ways for you to bless them.  
The possibilities are endless. And I know the blessings you’ll receive when you bring joy to a senior this holiday are even greater.

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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