5 Tips for Hosting an Inclusive Holiday Celebration in Assisted Living
During this time of year, there are Christmas lights, music and trees just about everywhere you look. In the United States where Christmas is celebrated by so many, it’s easy when planning a celebration for the holidays to default to making it all about Christmas, but if you have residents at your assisted living community of other faiths or traditions, you could be accidentally excluding them.
To avoid adding to that feeling of being left out during the holidays, make an effort to keep your holiday more inclusive this year.
An Inclusive Holiday Celebration in Assisted Living
Here are a few tips to help you host a more inclusive holiday celebration in assisted living this year:
1. Consider providing multiple celebrations, all optional.
There are a lot of holidays that fall in the winter months. To name a few:
- Hanukah – December 12 to December 20*
- Winter solstice – December 21*
- Yule – December 21*
- Christmas – December 25
- Kwanzaa – December 26 to January 1
- Three Kings Day/Epiphany – January 26*
*Dates are specific to 2017/early 2018 and may change in future years.
You can choose to have one big celebration where you do your best to include traditions from multiple holidays so you’re not making it exclusive to just one or two. Or, you could put out a survey early in the season to get a feel for which of the different holidays are celebrated by residents in your assisted living facility and make sure you schedule separate celebrations for each – making it clear to residents that they’re welcome to attend any of the celebrations, but also free to sit out any they’re not comfortable with.
2. Make a variety of foods.
This is another category where resident suggestions can help. Learn from your residents what foods they associate with winter. What makes them feel comfortable and cozy? Make a mix of recipes for your celebration that includes a variety of food types based on what your residents like.
Note: Be careful to check when Ramadan is before scheduling your holiday celebrations. This year, you don’t need to worry about Ramadan fasting coinciding with your winter holiday celebrations, but the month of Ramadan falls on different dates on our calendar each year, so checking on it is just a good practice to develop when scheduling events for your assisted living facility so you’re not leaving residents that are fasting out of festivities that include food.
3. Promote respect.
You may encounter some residents that grumble about their preferred holiday not being the main focus this year. You can’t stop the grumbling, but you can work to encourage them to see the benefits of the rituals and traditions your other residents celebrate. Recognizing more celebrations doesn’t mean discounting the value of any one of them.
Be vigilant in defending your minority residents if you hear them getting flack from others for traditions and celebrations that don’t fit into what other residents see as the norm. You probably won’t be able to change deep-seated opinions, but you can do your best to promote inclusivity and respect and show residents that may have formerly felt left out that they matter too this holiday season.
4. Stick with winter decorations.
Instead of Santa and elves, think about ways to decorate the assisted living community that celebrate the winter season more than a specific holiday. There’s still plenty to work with here – candles (stick with fake ones, for safety) garlands, lights, snowflakes, snowmen, poinsettias and wreaths. You can get your more crafty residents involved in helping create some DIY decorations.
To satisfy residents who express the desire to pull out some of their more traditional decorations, encourage them to decorate their own rooms. That way each person can make their personal space into a means of celebrating the traditions that matter most to them while keeping the shared spaces more inclusive.
5. Talk to your residents about their holiday traditions.
One of the first steps you should take in your quest to make your holiday celebration more inclusive is to do the work to figure out how your assisted living residents usually celebrate the holidays. Talk to them about their usual celebrations and traditions to get a feel for what this season means to each of them.
Some of your residents may be uncomfortable talking openly about their typical traditions, particularly if they’ve faced prejudice against them in the past. To help avoid putting them on the spot, offer a suggestion box where people can write out their favorite holiday traditions on a slip of paper and drop it into the box anonymously. That gives you fuel for thinking about new ways to celebrate this year, while also giving you the means to match your holiday celebration with the activities that mean the most to your residents specifically.