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When you think about the holidays, what comes to mind? For Shirley, an 84-year-old woman living in California, what the holiday season brings to her is memories of traditions and family.
She was born to a mother and father who didn’t know their own parents, and they decided to provide their daughters with extra-special holidays. How they chose to do this was with food, made from scratch and delicious.
For Thanksgiving, it was turkey with all the trimmings, fresh rolls and two different kinds of pie.
At Christmas, there were cookies to be baked, bread to bring to all the neighbors and pot roast. They would invite the neighbors over after dinner to play cards.
With Shirley’s own children, she decided holiday meals should be offered to their friends who had no family to connect with. There was something about sharing laughter and food that seemed important to her; she didn’t want to hear of anyone being alone. She knew that holidays can cause loneliness in some — maybe they feel unloved, they miss their family or there’s not enough money for a plane ticket home.
To this day, although her current home is not large enough to host many people, she makes sure that all her neighbors have homemade cookies and bread to share.
It is well known that human connection is important. We were made to be around others, to be social. Laughter is good medicine, and sounds of laughter create positive endorphins in our own brains, literally changing the way our brains process emotions. When we share a meal with others, hear them in a joyful state, we create a connection that actually helps us stay healthy.
For most, during the holiday season, our tradition is to be with family and friends. We eat, we laugh, we share stories, play games, we have fun. We connect, even for a little while, with humanity. There are numerous emotional benefits from situations like this, which could be why we as a society continue to uphold these traditions.
For some, social connection may not be possible. However, isolation is not helpful for any of us to maintain good physical and mental health. And when the holidays are here, many feel more isolated than ever.
You or a loved one may live in a group home type of setting, surrounded by other people that do not share your traditions.
It could be that your social circle has changed, leaving you wondering what to do with your time. But, there are ways to maintain or build connections regardless of your situation.
You could volunteer somewhere, serving a meal. You could join a group at your church or in your community, include yourself in something different. If you’ve been invited to someone’s home for dinner, take them up on it and immerse yourself in a new situation.
Find the joy in carolers coming to your door, whether they sing well or not! So many people want to help or make connections this time of year, and we must challenge ourselves to be open to it. It could be just the thing you need.
Katy Carpenter is the owner of The Content Artist and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is hosted by the Seniors Council of Douglas County. For more information, go online to MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, email DCSeniorLife@douglas.co.us or call 303-663-7681.
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