Presence – no, that’s not a typo.
Ironically, the best Christmas gift for seniors is simply your presence.
Elders on the Holidays
As we grow older, we see our parents less frequently and more on a holiday-by-holiday basis. For many of us, marriage is in the cards, and when that happens, the annual visits can grow to be bi-annual if you’re trying to balance each other’s families out.
It’s even worse if you have siblings because then if you can visit one year, but your siblings are going, then you may feel like your presence isn’t wholly necessary. Visits become more and more scarce.
The problem is, the less frequently you see your elders, the more likely you are to blow it off altogether. The mentality is “I’ve made it this long without seeing them, maybe I can go longer.” Essentially, it’s procrastination; “I’ll do it next year.”
The sad part is, “next year” may be too late; for people with dementia, “next year” they may not even remember you.
Presence Vs. Presents
I’m not going to condemn capitalism and marketing, we need those things to keep the economy running. And, let’s face it, a bigger TV or a new pair of sneakers is something you can get a lot of use out of.
But the number one gift on your list ought to be your presence. Who you choose to spend the holiday with is the greatest gift of all. No doubt, if your elders are living on their own and siblings aren’t going to visit, that’s your cue.
Even if you don’t get along with your parents all the time, you’re guaranteed they want to see you.
How do we know this? Just ask.
It’s a hot topic this time of year. Type in “regrets of the dying” into Google and you’ll find swarms of depressing articles with lists of regrets. Although there’s some variation between them, one statement resonates again and again and again:
“I wish I spent more time with loved ones.”
For Those Who CANNOT Be There
Obviously some people cannot be there, even if they want to; even if it’s a priority. If that’s the case, there are two things that you should ALWAYS be able to do.
1. Make the Call
Take some time out on the holiday (almost everything is closed anyway) to call your elder. Don’t simply wish them a “Happy Holiday,” but talk to them. Take the time to listen to their stories; you may not care about their latest stories, but respect them! They’re important to them!
Most people hate spending all day on the phone, but if you spend one day out of the year to give your full attention to your elder, make it this one – even if it’s on the phone.
2. Lifelong Presents
Don’t send something your elder won’t use or something that’ll be gone in a few days (i.e. fruit basket), send them something that, every time they use it, they’re reminded of you.
Photographs, collages, and frames can do this too, but if they’re complaining about snow boots with holes in them, then take the hint. They’ll think of you. Its’ the kind of present that reminds them of your presence that’ll stay with them.