Joyce Clark, Executive Director of Saint Ann Retirement Center in Oklahoma City.

Story by Joyce Clark, Executive Director – Saint Ann Retirement Center

When asked what is the most significant thing that makes an elder feel loved and included in the Thanksgiving & Christmas season, most people say they desire to spend time with family. Residents of Saint Ann Independent Living were asked for ideas to help make holidays for seniors more joyful and festive. Most replies indicated seniors simply want to spend time with loved ones doing just about anything. Ideas for activities families and seniors can do together are outlined below.


  • Attend a Christmas ballet or theatre show
  • Hold a virtual get-together using Facetime, Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet
  • For those who have difficulty getting around or need personal assistance, hire an aide to transport & assist her at a family event.
  • Play Dirty Santa or other games
  • Take a drive to view Christmas lights
  • Enjoy a spa day
  • Write Christmas cards
  • Include the elder in meal & event planning
  • Cook favorite items in a festive setting
  • Assist with gift wrapping
  • Help decorate the senior’s home. Also, help take down & store decorations.
  • Go gift shopping with a stop for brunch
  • Play holiday music & sit by a fire while visiting
  • Assemble a holiday or family photo album or scrapbook
  • Bake cookies
  • Make holiday cards or crafts
  • Watch Christmas or home movies
  • Create a cookbook with recipes from all family members
  • Organize old photographs & share memories about them
  • If it is difficult for the senior to get out of the home, take a small festive family party to her residence.
  • Attend church or Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day
  • Go caroling or have a sing-along
  • Help the senior primp for a special event or get ready together. Manicure nails, style hair, do makeup, trim long hair in nose, ear, or eyebrows, and get dressed in fancy clothes. The senior may need to rest before going to an event or some primping could be done in advance.
Saint Ann Independent Living residents agreed it is wonderful to have people stop by for a visit all year and not just during the holidays. Folks who are hard of hearing prefer personal visits over telephone calls or video chat. The residents also suggested some gift ideas for seniors:


  • Help out by shopping, running errands, picking up gifts, mailing package or cards
  • Arrange for a beautician or masseuse to go to the senior’s home
  • Postage stamps
  • Cup holder for walker or wheelchair
  • Gift card for a local grocery store, restaurant, favorite brand, Walmart, coffee, manicure, etc…
  • Crossword, Sudoku or jigsaw puzzles
  • Basket of fruit, snacks, or groceries
  • Latest book from a favorite author
  • Night lights or motion sensor lights for hallway, bedroom, bathroom
  • Coupon redeemable for running errands a few times a year
  • Note offering to do chores around the house
  • Monthly subscription for a gift box, flowers, or magazine
  • Warm & snuggly throw
  • Bidet
  • Easy-to-use mobile phone or tablet that can be used to video chat
  • Smart picture frame that allows people to upload pics, video call, or send notes
  • Amazon Echo with voice calling
  • Custom photo puzzle or calendar
  • Medical alert system
  • Memory foam or gel seat cushion
  • Adaptive devises like a long handled shoe horn
  • Large print playing cards
  • Succulents
  • Shari’s Berries
  • Bird feeder & seed
  • Wall mounted magnifying mirror
  • Fall-resistant slippers
  • Wine
  • Assortment of birthday & greeting cards with stamps
Another suggestion is to simplify traditions and routines to reduce stress and accommodate the elder’s physical or mental needs. Sometimes it is more about the people and simple things than celebrating exactly as done in previous years.
Holidays can be particularly sad for some folks. Pictures or memories may bring up tears or grief. This can be a healthy way to release normal feelings and should not be shamed. Share a safe space to remember and celebrate lost loved ones.
Joyce Clark is the Campus Director of Saint Ann Retirement Center, which offers independent and assisted living. She says watching people regain their strength, balance, and health is one of her team’s greatest rewards.
Clark encourages people to be extra careful at home getting in and out of the bathtub, where many people tend to fall. Call Lisa at Saint Ann Retirement Center, (405) 721-0747 Ext #322, if you would like more tips and helpful information.