Holiday Loneliness

Yes, Holiday Loneliness is a real thing–especially for seniors during the most festive season of the year. Here’s what you can do about it.

You know that Andy Williams song that we hear from Thanksgiving Day all the way through Christmas? The name of the song is, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It’s a popular song because for most of us, the holiday season really is the best time of the year. The lyrics of the song begin:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago

But what if you aren’t feeling merry? What if you are experiencing holiday loneliness? What if you are a senior who is not going to parties? And what if you are not surrounded by friends and family?

red holiday poinsettia

It’s the Holiday Season! Hooray! (Or Not.)

The truth is, for many senior citizens the holidays are a time of loneliness and isolation. It’s a season when many of us have too few friends to talk to. Family is too far away– and too much time is spent alone.

In May 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an urgent warning about an “epidemic of loneliness” in America.  “Addressing the crisis of loneliness and isolation is one of our generation’s greatest challenges,” Murthy said.

According to the CDC, nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated. Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, chronic illness and hearing or sight loss.

An Expert on Holiday Loneliness for Seniors

To talk about the problem of holiday loneliness, we invited Beverly Ventriss to Camp Codger to chat with us about how to recognize loneliness in seniors. And what we all can do to make their world less lonely.

For the past 9 years, Beverly has been president and CEO of Valley InterCommunity Council (VIC). It’s a group of three Los Angeles-based senior centers that deliver services both at the centers and at home-bound seniors’ homes. These hubs for seniors, which will celebrate their 60th year in 2024, are abuzz with activities that play an essential role in many seniors’ lives.

We had lots of questions for Beverly:

** Can you describe for us what, exactly, constitutes “loneliness” for seniors?

** How can you tell if someone is lonely? Are there “loneliness” signs we should look for?

** If you are a senior and feel a sense of loneliness, what are some coping strategies to help you climb out of it?

** So we live in an age dominated by technology. How can technology help — or hinder — the individual’s fight against loneliness?

** Can loneliness lead the way to depression? To dementia?

** If you spot loneliness in a friend or family member, what can you do?

happy seniors overcome holiday loneliness

What to do about Holiday Loneliness

It turns out, there are many ways to help overcome holiday loneliness. Reach out to friends that you haven’t heard from. Pick up the phone to say “hi.” Post messages on social media platforms such as Facebook, and also comment on the posts of others. Go say hello to your next door neighbor.

Sometimes it’s hard to reach out when you are suffering from holiday loneliness– or loneliness any time of the year. But reaching out is what friends do. It helps everyone.

If you are not suffering from holiday loneliness, please reach out to someone who might be lonely. It’s wonderful to take cookies to a friend or family member. It’s the holiday season, so no one will think you are being weird or pushy if you reach out and say hello.

When we reach out and share our humanity with others, we make the world a better place. That’s why the Andy Williams song (It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year) is so popular. When we do all of those friendly things, we make our lives richer and fuller. Plus, we feel less alone.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or a Winterfest, we hope your holiday season is a time of family, food, cheer, and reconnecting with friends and family. 

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