The Complete Guide to Seasonal Stress for Seniors

This time of year looks different for everyone: we all have different holidays we celebrate, different traditions, and different types of families – and that’s great! That’s what makes our lives unique and keeps the world interesting. But as you get older, things might seem a little, well, different in a bad way as the end of the year approaches. You might even find yourself wondering where all the joy went, and when it got replaced by things like stress or sadness. And we get it: life changes, and things might not be the same as they were in the past, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still reasons to celebrate. You just have to remember that it’s ok to find enjoyment in the way things are now, and that you can find new ways to celebrate. It might just be a matter of knowing what is triggering your negative feelings, and having ways to cope as seasonal stress approaches.

Start with the Source and Be Proactive

older woman in a red dress hugging a little girl in a dress
Try creating your own holiday with loved ones a day before or after the holiday.

First things first: before we start talking about all of those external sources of stress that surround this time of year, let’s start with why you might feel like the joy has been sucked out of this time of year, or why it just doesn’t feel right to you anymore. The root of this might just be all the changes that come with aging: children grow up and move away, some split holidays with in-laws; friends might also move or their health status might change, making them less likely to celebrate with you. 

If all of this seems overwhelming, and you find yourself wishing for the good old days, the first thing you need to do is try to be open to change. Embrace what is different in your life, and find new traditions that can accommodate everyone, and make you happy, as well. For example, if the time that you have with your loved ones has shifted, consider trying things like:

  • Getting creative – Why not create your own holiday, one that is unique – and therefore special – to your own immediate family? It could be the day before or the day after an important holiday, or it could always be the Saturday before, or whenever feels right to you. You can keep your old traditions alive, just move them to a new date!
  • Going digitalIf you can’t travel to be with loved ones, or if they’re spending a special day elsewhere, consider setting up a Zoom meeting, or scheduling a video chat so you can be together virtually.
  • Celebrating with yourself – If you find that there are times when you’re going to be on your own, think about other ways you can enjoy the season. Why not volunteer, connect with friends, or even treat yourself to a fancy dinner and a movie? You might discover a new holiday tradition that gives you joy just for you!

But what if the change in your life is something harder to replace by switching around schedules or making a virtual date? The loss of a loved one, whether it happened recently or years ago, can bring up intense feelings at this time of year, feelings of grief, loneliness, emptiness, and even guilt if you find yourself enjoying yourself. All of this is totally normal, but it is important to find ways to get through it in a way that feels best to you. Think about how you want to handle the situation, and talk to your loved ones about your wishes. Remember that it can be just as painful to have your loved ones avoid mentioning a deceased partner or other family member as it is to bring them up, so you might want to be proactive and come up with way ways to honor the dead, including perhaps:illustration of a family in a picture frame on a shelf with books

  • Having a picture of your loved one in a prominent place
  • Making a photo album of previous holidays and sharing it, so you can focus on positive memories
  • Setting aside a time for everyone to share memories and funny stories about your deceased loved one
  • Making a toast to the departed
  • Volunteering or donating in their name to honor something that was important to them
  • Continuing traditions that were important to them

Remember, you’re allowed to be sad, even during the holidays! Whatever you’re feeling, embrace it, share it, and find ways to enjoy life and the company of those who can be with you. 

Protect Your Time and Deal with the “Too Much To Do” Problem

Loneliness can be a source of stress at the holidays, but so can not having a moment to yourself! You might have lots of visitors, or feel pressured to continue holiday traditions exactly how they have always been, and things like decorating, cooking meals, and shopping can all add up and become overwhelming. Get things under control, and keep the stress to a minimum by trying things like:scheduler open with a pen on top of a page

  • Holding onto your routine – Your routine matters, and you should make sure to communicate that to your loved ones. Tell them (and remind yourself!) that you would like to maintain a schedule for meals, rest time, and anything else that’s important to you. 
  • Focusing on you – It’s important to focus on your needs, not on the expectations others have of you.
  • Prioritizing tasks – You might find that you need to downsize a bit to keep your sanity at this time of year. Decide which decorations are most important to you- don’t feel like you need to be outside on a ladder hanging lights on every inch of your roof, for example! The same applies for dinners and gifts: stick to two or three favorites dishes, or consider starting a potluck tradition, and talk to your family about starting a secret Santa or other type of gifting arrangement.
  • Accepting help – In the same vein of remembering that you don’t have to do it all, you also need to remember that it’s ok to accept help when it’s offered. In fact, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, be proactive and tell friends and family that you need help: ask others if they want to host, or if they want to bring something, or help decorate. They’ll feel needed and included, and you’ll get a much needed break!
  • Making sure “no” is in your vocabulary – Don’t ever feel obligated to join in with everything if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Your loved ones will understand, and you’ll enjoy the time you do spend with them all the more. 

Figure Out Your Finances

A third major source of stress at this time of year can be the hit to your wallet from presents, parties, dinners, travel, and the like. If you’re living on a fixed income, and are feeling the pinch from the holidays and extra winter expenses like heating, the best thing to do is to sit down and face this issue head on. Try the following to cope with any financial stress that comes up at this time of year:

  • Set a budget for holiday spendingSit down and really work out what is realistic for you to spend this year, taking account of everything including gifts, food, decorations, travel, cards and postage, and anything else that comes up. You might want to embed the cost of this season into your annual budget, setting aside a little of either your “fun” money, or your money that goes into savings and paying down debts.
  • Use cash wherever possible – It’s much easier to keep track of your spending – and a lot harder to go crazy! – when it’s cash coming out of your wallet rather than clicking “buy” with your credit card.little bags with numbers on them and gifts inside
  • Be creative with gift giving – If you exchange gifts, talk with your family about setting up something more fun and frugal this year, like a secret Santa or white elephant party. You can also think outside the box when it comes to what you give! Consider making something, baking something, thrifting something, or offering your time (hint: babysitting is always much appreciated!) as an alternative to an expensive, store-bought gift.

Talk About It, and Get Help When Necessary

Finally, remember that all of the above can often become too much, and depression can easily begin to set it. Take good care of yourself, first by eating right, getting exercise, and trying not to overindulge too much on eating – and especially drinking. Just as important, though, is reaching out to loved ones, or finding some sort of support, so you can talk about what you’re going through, and put yourself in the right frame of mind to reflect positively on what the holidays mean to you now. They might be different from what they once were, but you can still find the good in the season, and celebrate what has passed, what you have now, and what is still to come. Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!

Make a Difference from Home! How to Virtually Volunteer

 you can volunteer with We’re all spending a LOT of time at home these days, and maybe you’re starting to get just a little bit (ok, very) bored with the same old routine. What do you miss most? If one of the things at the top of your list is feeling like you’re getting out there and making a difference in the world, then we’ve got good news for you. There are ways you can volunteer from the comfort (or the boredom) of your own home. 

1. Start Right at Home (Sort of) illustration of a neighborhood with 2 houses next to each other,

If you think that doing good from home requires a lot of admin, finding formal opportunities, filling out online forms, etc, and if that kind of organization is not your thing, don’t worry. You can start making a difference – and getting a taste for helping others – right in your own neighborhood. Right now, people need a sense of community more than ever, and lending a hand and giving encouragement to those around you can go a long way. For example, thank all the essential workers around you, like trash collectors, mail carriers, and grocery store clerks, with signs, notes, or treats. Find out if neighbors need anything and add necessities to your grocery order, check up on those around you (especially the elderly) with texts, or leave a treat on their porch. Small, random acts of kindness might be some of the biggest things you can do to volunteer right now. 

2. Open Up and Share

Everyone’s got a story to tell, and you know what? Sometimes your story can make a big impact on the lives of others who might be going through the same things you’ve experienced. Think about what you are passionate about, and what things have most affected you in life. Are you a cancer survivor? Have you experienced mental health issues? Are you big into rescuing animals? Have you gone through something as a parent? Reach out to organizations and ask if you can help by sharing your story. Your words might just convince someone to make a donation, or could reach someone who is experiencing the same thing that you’ve gone through. Never underestimate the power of your words!

3. Make Your Voice Heard – Online

a cycle if thoughts and phone and social media and people.
Make your voice heard online by following legislators on social media and connecting with them.

You can use your voice by telling your story online, or you can use it to speak up for change. With just a few extra minutes in your day – and from the comfort of your own couch or in between Zoom meetings – you can take political action. Start by following your legislators (everyone from your town/city council members and your local school board to your state and federal representatives) on social media (we know you were on there anyway!). If there’s an issue you’re passionate about, tag them in your tweets and posts when you advocate for a cause, and be persistent to get their attention. 

Facebook also allows you to directly connect with your representatives through their Town Hall feature, and other websites perform a similar function, like There are also apps that allow you to track your representatives’ votes, or to contact them with the tap of a button – try Vote Spotter, for example. You’ve got the whole world quite literally in your pocket, so let your fingers do the volunteering!

4. Brighten a Senior’s Day

Visiting nursing or care homes is definitely out of the question these days, but that doesn’t mean that older adults don’t need to know there are people out there who care. In fact, that might be more important than ever, as isolation can hit vulnerable populations the hardest. Reach out to nursing homes, and find out if they have any programs that include connecting with residents by making phone calls or being a pen/email pal.

5. Find Time for Furry Friendsyoung caucasian boy carrying a yellow Labrador puppy.

You’re home, you’re on the couch – why not add a furry friend to cuddle with into the mix? There are still animals out there who need homes, and many shelters are allowing people to register and adopt online. And, now that many shelters are closed to visitors, fostering pets is another great way to volunteer. If you can’t manage either of those options, shelters are always looking for donations of anything from food to blankets to toys.

6. Connect with an Organization

If you ARE the type of person that likes to get more formally involved with well-organized groups, you can look into bigger nonprofits (and some smaller ones, too – just check with them) that offer virtual volunteering opportunities. You can do anything from offer your talents in things like writing, editing, translating, and research to helping share important updates on social media to even transcribing historical documents. Look into the following organizations you can volunteer for, but don’t limit yourself if none of these catches your fancy – there are plenty of others out there waiting for you to lend a hand.

  • United Nations Volunteers
  • The Smithsonian Institute
  • The Red Cross
  • Amnesty Decoders
  • Crisis Text Line
  • Translators Without Borders
  • Zooniverse
  • DoSomething.Org
silhouette of a person with a headset on with video games on the screen.
Get your family, friends, or office involved in an online gaming competition to raise money for charity!

7. Fundraise from Afar

You’re probably not going to be setting up any bake sales or lemonade stands anytime soon, but how about a virtual lemonade stand? Organizations like Alex’s Lemonade, which helps kids battling cancer has some great ideas to check out for setting up fundraisers, like virtual lemonade stands or video game competitions for charity. Or, if you’re really ready to get off your couch, try a virtual race! You can gather donations online and support your favorite organization – some races even let you use your treadmill at home.

8. Pack It Up!

Has all the extra time at home led to some serious decluttering sessions? Did you go crazy on the canned goods at the start of the pandemic? Got enough feminine hygiene products to last more than your lifetime? There are plenty of organizations out there doing good, giving to people in need, and the needs they’re trying to meet are greater than ever. Call around to local food banks and shelters to see what they’re accepting and how you can safely get it to them. Even if they’re not accepting things like clothes or books right now, you can guarantee they’ll be clamoring for them in the near future, so don’t throw anything away that someone else could use! 

For many of us, there is more willingness to give back than there is time or the ability (due to restrictions) to do so. But, we say, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Check out the options above, or think of other ways to volunteer virtually, and you’ll not only help your fellow humans, but you’ll reap all the rewards that volunteering brings to those who give it a try. Let us know how you get involved!

Don’t Wait For Santa, Help An Isolated Senior This Christmas

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, to some. To others, especially lonely seniors, it is a very depressing time. Some seniors exist in the “assisted living” environment; they cannot travel to see loved ones, don’t get visits, or are immobile. To make matters worse, some are dealing with the loss of a loved one, even a partner.

Santa hands holding wrapped gifts
You can volunteer to help make a lonely senior happy this Christmas by volunteering in the Be A Santa To A Senior program.

If you are looking for a way to give back to the community, try volunteering in the Be a Santa to a Senior Program. This program is a holiday-oriented and was created to give attention and joy to isolated seniors. 

The Program

During the holiday season, Home Instead Senior Care partners up with local non-profit, community organizations to find seniors who are lonely and not receiving gifts. They ask the seniors what they need, and then they create a tree ornament with the request. Local businesses like retail stores help Home Instead by placing these trees in their lobbies or otherwise.

How You Can Help

You can make a senior’s day this Christmas by participating in the Be a Santa to a Senior Program. The gift, no matter how small, could completely change their holiday. Kindness is the real gift here, and showing this person that they are not alone. Someone cares enough to give up their time to help a stranger. 

You can help by:

  1. Finding a participating Be a Santa to a Senior location.
  2. Removing an ornament off the tree with a senior’s gift request.
  3. Purchasing the gift requested.
  4. Putting the ornament and the unwrapped gift in the designated box at the participating store.
Christmas tree with silver ornaments
Seniors will write what they need and it will be put on an ornament. You can pick up the ornament and buy what they ask for and bring it back to the store.

The program began in 2003 and runs across the USA and Canada, and has helped by providing more than a million gifts to 700,000 seniors. An example of a request can be “a pair of reading glasses for Sam.”

When you purchase the request and place it in the designated box, it is then gathered by volunteers. These volunteers collect the items, wrap them, and deliver them to the seniors. 

You can give a lonely senior knowledge that someone cares;. A stranger went out of their way to get them something from their Christmas list.

Depression in seniors impairs their ability to function and enjoy life. It can also contribute to poorer overall health, not to mention a higher suicide risk. According to data collected in 2015, people 85 years old and older had the second-highest suicide rate in the U.S. 

If you are able to give up some of your time and a small amount of money, find a participating Be A Santa To A Senior location and grab a bulb (ornament). You will make that senior’s Christmas joyful, and unforgettable. Everyone can use a little pick-me-up during the holiday season, so why not be a Santa to a senior who needs it?

Happy Make a Difference Day!

While it isn’t Christmas or Halloween, we can still appreciate Make a Difference Day, a national day set aside for observing togetherness. Every fourth Saturday in October is dedicated to this idea. This year it is October 26th. It is mostly used as a great excuse to go out and bring your community together. While the focus is more on volunteer work, any type of service or gathering will serve to honor the spirit of this holiday.

happy volunteers for Make a Difference Day
You’ll find great people out on this day. Sign up at a local charity or search online.

When a leap year comes around, people often muse on what they can do with the time. In 1992, USA Weekend magazine, a large periodical, offered a suggestion for that year’s ‘leap day’. Why not take is as a way to improve the lives of others? It became so popular, the day was made into an official holiday. This year is October 26th, but it changes. So, next year will be October 24, 2020.

How Can You Help?

You don’t have to wait for a leap year to do some good in the world. Think about the time you have and plan for this October to get out and make someone’s day. Think about ay cause you feel particularly drawn to, or a group of individuals that you see need help. Just one day of service out of your year can make a difference in their lives.  

United Way hosted projects such as raking leaves for the elderly or disabled. Another volunteer, Maggie Leach, working with Points of Light, gathered $810 in quarters to donate to shelters for laundry. It just takes some insight into how you can help people, even with something small.

Here are some other ideas if you’re not sure where to start:

  • Building or painting community houses
  • Volunteering at your local animal shelter or zoo
  • Cleaning up a park or public sports field
  • Raising money for charities


Be Social on Make a Difference Day

adults jumping on a beach after volunteering
Think of all the good you can do in just one day. It doesn’t have to be on the holiday, but it is easier.

Even if you can’t get out of the house for a day, you could host a gathering for your neighborhood and ask for any spare change to donate to your local shelter. Just keeping the spirit of community alive for your neighbors can honor the day. Or, perhaps you may have a yard sale and ask your friends for donations. Clearing out your attic can turn into money to help local food banks. If you can’t spare time to help on this specific day you can always volunteer another. This holiday is once a year but help is appreciated all year long!

For the tech-savvy amongst us, you can use this time to spread awareness of the day using hashtags. Commemorate your service by posting selfies to Facebook or Instagram with #MakeADifferenceDay. You may find others in your area doing the same thing, and you can merge your efforts together. 

It doesn’t take much to help each other. If we put in some effort, on this day or another, maybe we can make this world a better place


Activities To Do While Cooped Up Inside

With the weather getting worse during the winter months, you end up getting stuck inside your home a lot. Being cooped up indoors for a long time can drive anyone crazy, and for some cause seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder is when you get depressed during the change of seasons, typically begins fall and carried on through the winter season. Because it is safer indoors than being out in the frigid cold, it is important to try and find ways to manage the distress. It can be a fun time, as long as you make it that way. There are entertaining things you can do while homebound in order to avoid depression, isolation, and boredom.

Board games

Games and puzzles are a great way to kill time, while having fun. You can play by yourself, or play with loved ones.

Take the time to volunteer for a local church or hospital. You can crochet/knit hats, scarves or gloves.
Take the time to volunteer for a local church or hospital. You can crochet/knit hats, scarves or gloves.

Games like scrabble and Sudoku are fun and work your brain at the same time. You can also play card games such as solitaire, or online games if you can manage.


If you are bored, then you can consider doing some charity work. You can call the local hospital or church and see if you can help out with anything, such as knitting or crocheting blankets from the comfort of your home.

Connect With Friends & Family

Take the time of being stranded indoors to catch up with family or friends. You can take the time to write a letter, or make some calls to connect with loved ones.

Learn Something New

Take an online class or tutorial! There are many options to choose from, whether learning a new language, DIY crafts, drawing, painting, modeling clay, play an instrument, or cooking classes. Use the time to learn a new hobby from the comfort of your own home.

Plan A Vacation

What a better time to think about your next vacation than when you are snowed in? Start planning a vacation you would like to go on with loved ones or alone for the spring and/or summer. You can also take the time to plan your next get-together with friends.


Get up and move! There are many safe exercises you can do from the comfort of your

Take the time to catch up on a good book.
Take the time to catch up on a good book.

own home that will boost your mood. You can even use a chair to do some exercises, including yoga.

Spend Time Reading

Reading has a lot of benefits for the brain. You enhance your cognitive skills when you read a book everyday. It improves memory, reduces stress, and you can expand your vocabulary by learning new words.

Watch A Movie/Show

Make a day of popcorn and your favorite movies on the couch. Remember that too much TV is not good for your health, so keep the movie/show days to a minimum.