Creating New Memories: Celebrating Thanksgiving in Senior Living

Last Updated: November 19, 2018Creating New Memories: Celebrating Thanksgiving in Senior Living

If you, your parent or senior loved one will be spending Thanksgiving in a senior living community, there’s no need to miss out on the fun of the holiday. With a little prep work, you can still celebrate with loved ones in a senior living residence. You may even be surprised to find that you can enjoy the holiday more without the stress of hosting a large gathering on your own.

Read our tips on how to create new memories with family and friends this year by celebrating Thanksgiving in senior living.

1. Give back, together.

Many families enjoy celebrating a holiday by serving their community or helping those that are less fortunate. If you are able to travel and feel active enough to do so, there are often area soup kitchens that appreciate extra sets of hands to help serve their Thanksgiving meals. Other organizations often sponsor canned food drives, making it as simple as purchasing a few extra items during your trip to the grocery store; check with your activities director about making a collection station at your facility, then encourage your visiting family members to bring some items. Your family can also volunteer without having to leave the senior living community by participating in activities like the American Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes, where you can write cards for servicemen, veterans and their families. Buy a pack of holiday cards, grab a few pens and let each family member write a holiday greeting or a simple note of thanks.

2. Invite your family to Thanksgiving dinner, then sit back and enjoy.

Most senior living residences plan several activities around the holidays, so be sure to take advantage of what’s offered at your community. Check with the activities director on the date and time for your residence’s Thanksgiving meal and then invite your loved ones. You’ll most likely be able to enjoy delicious mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and turkey without spending hours in the kitchen. If you are the family member visiting a loved one, a nice gesture is to prepare or purchase a special holiday treat that your loved one has always liked. There are often family favorites associated with Thanksgiving, so bring a taste of home when you visit. You may want to bring enough that your loved one can share with others later as well since many seniors still enjoy acting as host or hostess to fellow residents and staff.

3. Make it a multigenerational celebration.

After enjoying your traditional holiday meal, why not dust off some of your favorite board games, playing cards or dominos to continue the fun? If there are older children visiting, take the opportunity to teach them some of the more basic games they might not be familiar with, like “Crazy Eights.” For younger children, you may want to purchase (or ask your family members to bring) a few new coloring books and a pack of crayons; these can be purchased cheaply at your local drug store or grocery store. Visiting family members can also bring some of their favorite modern board games for the family to play together.

4. Take a stroll down memory lane.

Holidays are the perfect time to revisit favorite memories and old photos are a great way to speak happy memories. You may be surprised at how much your children or grandchildren want to hear about life “back then” or see photos of your younger years. If you are the family member visiting the loved one, you can make copies of the old photos so that there’s no risk of the originals being damaged. You may even be able to enlarge some without distortion. You may also want to mentally prepare some memory-sparking conversation starters; you’ll be surprised at how remembering happy times can help get a great family dialogue rolling, even for loved ones suffering from dementia.

The holidays can continue to offer precious new memories with family and friends. With a little planning, you can create new Thanksgiving traditions in senior living that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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